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Mystery percolates through Christie’s ‘Black Coffee’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The physicist Sir Claud Amory has developed a formula he says will “bombard the atom” and kill millions.

It’s the early 1930s and Britons are hearing rumblings about a certain nastiness in Germany.

Agatha Christie’s “Black Coffee” weaves prescient imaginings of the atomic bomb with a cascade of red herrings in a country manor into a gripping whodunit. The play opens at the Adobe Theater on Friday, April 13.

Written in 1929, “Black Coffee” was the author’s first stage play.

“She wrote it in response to the way Hercule Poirot had been treated in other writings,” director Mario Cabrera said. “People had taken that character in other vignettes.”

Arguably Christie’s most famous creation, the dandified Belgian detective stood barely 5 feet 4 inches tall, sported a curled mustache and a pink-tipped nose. A speck of dust might cause him more pain than a bullet hole. But the “little gray cells” swirl.

“It’s his ability to discern what the rest of us cannot” that explains his appeal, Cabrera said.

As the play opens, Sir Claud summons friends and family to his mansion to announce the mysterious disappearance of the secret formula. He asks the housekeeper to dim the lights so that the thief can return it with anonymity.

When the lights return, Sir Claud is dead, the victim of poison swirled into his black coffee.

Poirot arrives at the manor minutes too late but instantly sniffs a sinister brew of secrecy, treachery and deception.

Nearly everyone is a suspect.

Sir Claud “is a grand bully,” Cabrera said. “He bullies his son, his son’s wife, the housekeeper. And they all would stand to inherit a lot of money if he died.”

Albuquerque Little Theatre business manager Dehron Foster will play Poirot.

“He is the right shape, the right size and the right look to play Hercule Poirot,” Cabrera said.

Mike “Eddie” Dethlefs is Hastings, Neil Faulconbridge is Inspector Japp, Nick Fleming is Richard Amory and Fawn Hanson is Lucia Amory.

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