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Open: 08/09/14- Close: 08/22/14 Murder Margaret and Me
Reviewed for By: Heather Violanti
Steve Ullathorne ©2023  Janet Price in "Murder, Margaret and Me"

Janet Price gives a tour de force performance as Margaret Rutherford, Agatha Christie, and Miss Marple in Murder, Margaret and Me at FringeNYC.  Philip Meeks’ clever and heartfelt one-woman play charts the unlikely friendship between Christie and comic actress Rutherford, who was cast against her own better judgment (and Christie’s wishes) as spinster sleuth Jane Marple in a series of four movies during the 1960’s.  The play not only examines Christie and Rutherford’s friendship, it examines the common thread that unites Christie, Rutherford and Marple—namely, murder.  While Christie made her name writing novels about fictitious murders solved by Miss Marple, Rutherford was haunted by a very real murder, one whose consequences scarred her for life. 

Director Stella Duffy skillfully balances the play’s blend of humor, pathos, and the macabre, sharply orchestrating Price’s lightning transitions between character and emotion.  Price nails Rutherford’s signature stooped gait and larger-than-life mannerisms while capturing the glints of heartbreak beneath her blustery surface.  Fans of Rutherford’s “Marple” movies will enjoy sly references, including a recreation of Rutherford-as-Marple dancing the twist (though this joke is perhaps repeated once too often, loveable as it is). Price displays incredible versatility in the other two roles.  She is prim, proper and fiercely intelligent as Christie, and sweet-yet-steely as the formidable Miss Marple.

Meeks structures the play as a mystery, with Marple and Christie working to find out Rutherford’s dark secret—but the revelation, while shocking, slips perhaps a little too easily.  If Rutherford has been hiding her family’s painful secret her whole life, it seems unlikely she would so readily confide it to Christie, even after Christie’s careful prodding.  Still, Meeks’ writing is beautiful and well-observed, capturing historical fact and the inquisitive spirit of Christie’s fiction. 

Marie Yokoyama’s set and lighting design makes the most of the cramped performance space.  An emphasis on shadows heightens the sense of foreboding, while key set pieces (such as Rutherford’s suitcase and Miss Marple’s cozy chair) help evoke a sense of place.

The quality of design, acting, direction and writing put Murder, Margaret and Me in the top flight of Fringe shows.  It is definitely a festival highlight. 

VENUE #3: Abrazo Interno at the Clemente : 107 Suffolk Street  (between Rivington & Delancey)