Journey derailed by murder – Santa Barbara News-Press

SBCC Theater Troupe to Present “Murder on the Orient Express”

Clockwise from left, Leesa Beck, Matthew Tavianini, Tiffany Story, Sanford Jackson and McKenna Kline perform in The Theater Group at SBCC’s production of Agatha’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ Christy. It is adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig and directed by Katie Laris.

A train stops on stage – with Hercule Poirot on the way to solving a murder.

It could only be Dame Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express”.

“It was a script that I had read before the pandemic,” said Katie Laris, director of the SBCC production’s theater group, which debuts this week at City College’s Garvin Theater.

Previews will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, followed by performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through March 19.

“We wanted to do it in front of a live audience, so we put it on hold for a few years,” Ms. Laris told News-Press. “We are so happy to perform it live in our theater with a live audience and with great experienced actors, beautiful sets, amazing costumes, having it perform in person with everyone. I’m really glad we waited until this time.

Matthew Tavianini, playing Detective Hercule Poirot, and Tiffany Story appear in “Murder on the Orient Express.”

For Poirot, it’s just past midnight, and the snow has stopped the Orient Express. An American tycoon is found dead in his compartment. He’s been stabbed a dozen times and Poirot has a mystery as he tries to identify the killer.

“It’s not easy to solve,” Ms. Laris said.

Ms. Laris recalls reading Ms. Christie’s novel many years ago and seeing a film adaptation.

“I went back and read the novel. It was as gripping and wonderful as I remember,” Ms. Laris said.

“It’s because Agatha Christie’s work is so character driven,” she said, praising Ms. Christie for her attention to detail.

“Each character gives the actor something to try to create,” Ms. Laris said. “Mystery aside, that’s what makes it a great ride.

And there’s a train on stage.

“The train goes back and forth between compartments,” Ms. Laris said. “It’s set in 1934, basically when Christie wrote the novel.”

She said the SBCC’s theater group paid attention to detail, to ensure the train was spectacular – “luxury travel at its best.”

Leesa Beck and Matthew Tavianini star together on “Murder on the Orient Express,” which shows the detective’s logical and human sides.

“We haven’t been able to travel to remote places as much as we would like,” Ms Laris said, referring to the pandemic. “Theater allows us to do that, to travel vicariously through the characters on stage.”

Matthew Tavianini embodies one of these characters – Poirot, the Belgian detective with the elegant mustache, the bowler hat and the brilliant mind.

“I think for me the challenge of taking on this role is that it operates from a very cerebral aspect,” Mr. Tavianini told News-Press. “It’s kind of the opposite of what I do as an actor in Box Tales (another Santa Barbara theater company) where I use my body and a mask to create different characters. This is more autonomous with Poirot’s logic of understanding things through observation and analysis.

“The way he behaves physically is very controlled and compact,” said Mr Tavianini, who was present when News-Press spoke with Ms Laris. “It was really fun to explore. Katie’s direction helps me.

Ms. Laris praised Mr. Tavianini for his portrayal of Poirot. “Matt is a completely brilliant, experienced and warm actor, very nuanced. We are so lucky to have him in this role.

Fans have seen various portrayals on the big and small screens of Poirot, ranging from Peter Ustinov in 1970s and 80s films to Kenneth Branagh in “Death on the Nile,” now in theaters.

“Matt brought a new perspective to the character,” Ms. Laris said. “There are nuances and elements outside of the standard Poirot.

Sanford Jackson and McKenna Kline are part of the cast, which features characters from all walks of life from different countries.

“He has a romantic desire with one of the characters,” Ms. Laris said, referring to one of the elements of Ms. Christie’s story.

She noted that Mr Tavianini shows “a kind of warmth, personal compassion that sometimes is not part of the standard Poirot”.

Ms Laris added that in Ken Ludwig’s theatrical adaptation of Ms Christie’s classic, Poirot wrestles with what defines morality and justice.

Poirot must balance his own humanity with the pursuit of justice, whatever the cost.

“It’s Poirot’s essential struggle,” Ms Laris said. “This production frames that conflict at the heart of the play.”

In addition to Mr. Tavianini, the cast includes Leesa Beck, Justin Davanzo, Emma-Jane Huerta, Dalina Klan, Haley Klan, Sanford Jackson, McKenna Kline, Will Muse, Mircea Oprea, Jenna Scanlon, Tiffany Story, Johnny Waaler and Raymond Wallenthin . .

Ms Laris said the actors, who played characters from different countries from all walks of life, faced the challenge of creating unique accents.

“They are so talented, so experienced,” she said. “They were able to take on the personalities and bring that whole sense of character to the scene. It’s just delightful to see them all interact.

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The SBCC Theater Group will perform “Murder on the Orient Express” March 2-19 at the Garvin Theater on the West Campus of Santa Barbara City College in the 900 block of Cliff Drive, Santa Barbara. Previews are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. After that, the curtain will rise at 7:30 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday and at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. The morning of March 6 will be live captioned for the hearing impaired.

Tickets cost between $18 and $26 with discounts for seniors and students. To purchase, go to or call the box office at 805-965-5935.

Masks are mandatory inside the theater and building for all ages 5 and up. (N95 or KN95 masks are recommended.) Attendees must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance, along with current photo ID.

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