Author: Agatha Christie
Time Period: The Present
Format: 2 Acts
Characters: 6 Male, 4 Female
Setting/Sets: 1 Set, 2 Scenes in Act 1, 3 scenes in Act 2
Reviewer: C. T. Cawley
2 / 4 Stars
Background and Summary
Christie wrote this play in 1958 for the stage. This is the last of her dramatic works, which she valued considerably more than critics who compared this play to her other efforts.
Professor Karl Hendryk is a scholar and teacher who has had to flee from his native country and is situated at a university in Britain. His wife, Anya, is an invalid with a progressively debilitating disease. Her cousin, Lisa Koletzky, has come to live with the Hendryks in order to care for her. Although Professor Hendryk is devoted to his wife, there is a suppressed romantic element between him and Lisa. The Professor tutors students whom he thinks are potentially great scholars. One who definitely isn’t, Helen Rollander, seeks to come under his tutelage, because she has fallen in love with him. Her wealthy father induces the professor to take her as a student by offering to finance a cutting-edge cure for Anya’s disease. Helen murders Anya in an attempt to free Karl from the sterile marriage. Since the murder is committed in plain sight on stage, the play is not really a murder mystery. Rather it revolves around the characteristics of the people involved for impelling conflicts, the major one of which is resolved by o fortuitous and improbable incident. This mitigates the impact of the primary conflict resolution. This seems to be a major flaw in the play.
The set is the living room of Professor Hendryk’s flat in Bloomsbury. All action takes place there.
If this play were rated according to MPAA guidelines, it would be PG.
In order to display the depth of Professor Hendryk’s dedication to scholarship, the set is excessively full of books: multiple, sizable, full bookshelves as well as a profound clutter of books lying all over the set. Procuring enough books to make this impression could be a problem.