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For some, reading the closing pages of a mystery before the rest of the story is an addiction: knowing how it unravels is comforting before getting tangled up in details. In "The Unexpected Guest," Agatha Christie surprisingly chose a method often practiced by her readers. Within the first 15 minutes of the play, the murderer and the motive are identified. But it takes the cast 90 minutes to figure it all out.

And what a cast in the Old Lyric Repertory Company production.Colleen Baum plays the dignified housekeeper, Miss Bennett, perfectly, standing ramrod straight with lips tightly pursed, speaking firm and concise sentences and marking them with periods. The matron of the household, Mrs. Warwick (Pam Adams), speaks her rich, authentic English accent with proud character, as a woman who "can keep her secrets" and does.

April Audia, as Laura Warwick, sounds more American than English in her accent, but Lego Louis, as Michael Starkwedder, is stunning. His control of the dialogue and body language effectively implies undercurrents of attraction between Starkwedder and Warwick, adding an unpronounced dimension to their relationship.

When Starkwedder breaks down in the final scene, despite his earlier exploits, one feels pity for him.

Bruce Duerden (lighting design) and Ken Bown (sound design) create an ominous atmosphere using the foreboding call of a fog horn and a gray mist creeping outside the double glass doors.

Dennis Hassan's set denoting wealth and a passion for big game is effective but lacks compatibility for players whose heads encounter the low-lying bank of curtains above the entryway.

For all the technical and artistic expertise of Old Lyric Repertory, the real star is the playwright. "The Unexpected Guest" is not a Poirot showcase but a study in the character of a murderer whose heart is alternately full of revenge and kindness. Christie's canyon of twists and turns, not only in the story but in the psychological makeup of her characters, takes on those in the audience and in the end leaves them startled.