BATAVIA -- The Batavia Players take on Agatha Christie mysteries in a series of three one-act plays starting tonight at the 56 Harvester Theater in the city.
The lineup for "That Mysterious Agatha Christie'' package includes "The Patient,'' "The Rats" and "Afternoon at Seaside.''
The Players have presented an annual packet of one-act plays before offerings by Tennessee Williams last year but never those of Christie, perhaps the world's most famous mystery writer.
The group's Show Committee chose her works because of their availability and the quality of their subjects, said Michele Stamp, who is directing "The Patient.''
"And it's a good fit for October (Halloween season)'' Stamp said during a backstage interview at the Harvester Avenue theater that has been home to the Players for nearly two years.
All three of the plays are whodunits, ranging in length from about 35 minutes to a little less than an hour, according to Stamp.
Neither of the Christie's super sleuths, Jane Marple or Hercule Poirot, are in any of the plays, she said, but the audience should be able to figure out who the guilty party is "if they listen carefully.''
"Agatha provides you with very good clues,'' she said.
Many people may not be aware that Christie, who died in 1976 at age 85, penned more than 500 mystery plays in addition to her more well-known mystery novels.
"She was very productive in her play writing,'' said Stamp.
Patrick Burk, president of the Players and artistic and executive director of the theater, said there are clues in most all of Christie's plays. Some are more difficult to figure out than others, he said, but he's happy with the trio the Players will be staging.
"I just find these (three) to be pretty enchanting,'' he said during an interview at his Batavia home.
Burk, who works for Lee Publications, is directing "Afternoon at Seaside.'' His wife, Jane, a substitute teacher and day care worker, directs "The Rats.''
The three plays are set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but in different settings a hospital, an urban area and a beach. They are fun in that they keep people guessing, said Burk.
"To me, they're almost a homage to her (Christie).''
Stamp, a physical therapist at the state School for the Blind, is in the cast of "The Patient'' as well as directing a Players presentation for the first time.
She called the dual duty both challenging and enjoyable. "It's a good learning experience,'' she said.
And, she has a great cast as well, she said. "A lot of fun to work with.''
Cast members for the Players' presentations are from as far off as Buffalo and Rochester, but the vast majority are local, said Stamp, who is a member of the Players' board.
Show times are 7:30 tonight and Friday night and 2 p.m. Saturday. Saturday's matinee includes a High Tea, a typically English offering that includes tea, coffee and light fare such as scones and sandwiches.
It is also a chance for the audience to meet cast members, Stamp said.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens, and can be purchased at the door or online at www.showtix4u.com .
The theater, in what used to be an industrial sheet metal shop, seats around 100 people on three sides of a roughly 16-by-20-foot stage. Parking is available on the street and in two lots just north of the theater building.
The Agatha Christie event was originally scheduled for mid-September, but postponed due to flooding from two summer rainstorms that required a lengthy cleanup of the theater.
"There was water everywhere,'' Patrick Burk said.
The change of schedule also resulted in a change of directors. All three of those originally lined up to direct the plays had to bow out due to work commitments, Burk said.
About the plays
Here's a synopsis for each of the three Agatha Christie plays to be performed by Batavia Players during "The Mysterious Agatha Christie":
- AN AFTERNOON BY THE SEASIDE is a humorous one-act in which owners of three beach huts find their enjoyment of the sea interrupted when the inspector arrives in search of a necklace.
- THE PATIENT is a classic who-done-it centered around the mystery of how a woman fell from a balcony. The women is paralyzed and in a hospital bed. The inspector is determined to get to the bottom of things.
- THE RATS features four characters who receive an invitation to a flat. The invitees know each other, but not who invited them.
A Quick Look
WHAT: "The Mysterious Agatha Christie," a package of three one-act plays presented by Batavia Players.
WHERE: Harvester 56 Theater, 56 Harvester Ave., Batavia.
WHEN: 7:30 tonight and Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday. The matinee includes a High Tea and a chance to meet cast members.
TICKETS: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors. Available at the door and online at www.showtix4u.com .