Ken Ludwig’s stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is a heart-racing suspense thriller, a knee-slapping comedy and a head-scratching mystery all wrapped in one. Set in 1932 on the glamorous Orient Express, a long-distance passenger train connecting continental Europe to west Asia, the play takes place primarily in Istanbul and Yugoslavia. But the passenger list includes dignitaries from all over the globe.
When an American businessman is murdered, Hercule Poirot steps in to solve the crime. Which international figure committed the deed? Here’s a guide to the play’s colorful characters.
Passport from: Belgium. Occupation: Detective.
Meticulous and exacting, Poirot is a keen observer of detail and an astute judge of character. Certain that the crime was committed by someone on the train, he confidently and patiently works his way to a shocking solution.
Passport from: The United States. Occupation: Victim.
A middle-aged American businessman, Ratchett is brusque and unforgiving, with a threatening demeanor and a whiplash of a voice. He’s made plenty of enemies… almost everyone has wished him dead. But whodunit?
COUNTESS ELÉNA ANDRENYI
Passport from: Hungary. Occupation: Royalty.
Countess Eléna Andrenyi is out of a fairy tale. She’s in her twenties, brilliantly beautiful and always dressed to the nines in furs and diamonds. She seems too good to be true — but is she a murderer?
Passport from: Scotland. Occupation: Colonel.
A Scotsman in his mid-thirties, Arbuthnot is handsome and very matter of fact. He’s hopelessly in love with Mary. Would he kill for her?
Passport from: Belgium. Occupation: Gentleman.
A young middle-aged man of good humor, Monsieur Bouc is an old friend of Poirot’s. He appears removed from the crime, often acting as Poirot’s sounding board, but no one on the train is above suspicion.
Passport from: England. Occupation: Governess.
An English beauty in her late twenties, Mary bears a certain sadness in her eyes. When she first appears, she is very anxious. Perhaps she is harboring a terrible secret…
Passport from: Russia. Occupation: Royalty.
The Russian princess, now in her seventies, enters her compartment “like a galleon in full sail.” Expensively dressed and handsomely bejeweled, she certainly wouldn’t need to kill for money. But might she have another motive?
Passport from: ?? Occupation: Head Waiter on the Orient Express.
Professional in demeanor, he is knowledgeable and a bit overconfident. Mystery fans know it’s a cliché, but never rule out the possibility that The Butler Did It.
Passport from: The United States. Occupation: Widow.
An outspoken American in her fifties, well dressed with a touch of flamboyance, Mrs. Hubbard is a tough-talking broad with rough edge and a bold sense of humor. She seems the least likely to commit murder, but is there something about her the others don’t know?
Passport from: The United States. Occupation: Personal secretary and translator.
A nervous young American in his thirties with a strained, rather beleaguered face, Hector appears to be suppressing something. Perhaps he knows more than he is willing to tell.
Passport from: France. Occupation: Train Conductor.
A good-looking Frenchman, about forty, Michel has a quiet, almost grave sense of humor. He’s seen a lot in his years on the Orient Express, and he knows his way around the train, making him particularly well positioned to get away with murder.
Passport from: Sweden. Occupation: Nurse and missionary.
Plain and modest, Greta has a frightened, sheep-like quality about her. There is something odd about this woman. Could she be harboring a deadly secret?
Poirot never fails to uncover the truth, and this case is no exception! Using his powers of deduction and observation, the master investigator reveals all in a shocking conclusion.
Header Image: 2017 McCarter Theatre production of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (T. Charles Erickson)