First published as detective fiction in 1944 in both the U.S. and the U.K., TOWARDS ZERO received positive reviews for Agatha Christie. It was considered to be carefully conceived and well plotted with the myriad twists and turns characteristic of Christie. In 1956, the book was adapted into a play by Agatha Christie and Gerald Verner and opened in London the same year. The mystery has also been adapted into film (with major plot changes and retitled “Innocent Lies”), television, and radio. Clearly, audiences have enjoyed Christie’s clever tale of murder and mayhem for over 60 years. In 2023, Theatre Forty proudly presents TOWARDS ZERO for modern audiences.
John Combs and Michele Schultz – Photo by Casey Durkin
The time is 1956, and the place is the drawing room at Gull’s Point, Lady Tressilian’s house in Saltcreek, Cornwall, U.K. Lady Tressilian (Michele Schultz) has invited a few people to her home, which she shares with her caregiver Mary Aldin (Katyana Rocker-Cook), for a fortnight stay. Included are her ward Nevile Strange (Christopher Franciosa) – who has insisted in inviting both his ex-wife Audrey (Holly Sidell) and his current wife Kay (Kristin Towers-Rowles) – and long-time family friend Thomas Royde (Jeremy Schaye). Guests invited for the evening – retired judge Matthew Treves (John Combs) and Kay’s long-time pal Ted Latimer (Michael Mullen) – round out the complement in attendance. This will prove to be a memorable night for all concerned – especially when Lady Tressilian is found brutally murdered in her bed. Whodunit? The murder will prove to be a perplexing puzzler for Superintendent Battle (David Hunt Stafford) and Inspector Leach (Hisato Masuyana) – and for the audience as well.
Jeremy Schaye and Holly Slidell – Photo by Casey Durkin
Director Craig Hissong does an excellent job of keeping the mystifying happenings at the forefront, as any admirer of Agatha Christie would certainly do. He is well assisted by the horde of possible suspects in the remote, isolated, and mysterious mansion. Special kudos to Schultz and Combs, who are simply perfect as the very upper crust senior English aristocracy. British accents across cast members may vary – but these two knock it out of the park.
Kristin Towers-Rowles, John Combs, and Christopher Franciosa
The production team does its bit creating an environment suitable to a Christie thriller. Jeff G. Rack’s sometimes shadowy drawing room fills the bill, as do Michael Mullen’s costumes and Judi Levin’s wig/hair/makeup. Derrick McDaniel’s lighting and Nick Foran’s sound keep furtive pace with the tale. TOWARDS ZERO is not one of Christie’s most often performed plays – and so it should prove especially interesting for her admirers. This is a show which will intrigue and entertain. It is highly recommended for mystery buffs, as well as for aficionados of Christie’s clever mysteries.
Katyana Rocker-Cook and Michael Mullen – Photo by Casey Durkin
TOWARDS ZERO runs through October 22, 2023, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Mary Levin Cutler Theatre is located at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills High School, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills CA 90212. Tickets are $35. For information and reservations, call 310-364-0535 or go online.