In Agatha Christie’s "Murder on the Orient Express,"the setting, as much as the mystery, is part of the appeal of the story.

Set on a train stranded in the snow, the whodunnit unfolds in a confined space with an improbably diverse cast of characters.

"Somebody’s dead, you don’t know who did it or who’s next, and you’re stuck in the snow in a foreign country," said Suzie Hansen, director of Absolute Theatre’s upcoming stage productionadapted from the 1934 novel.

The story is one of Christie’s many featuring private detective Hercule Poirot as the lead sleuth.

Although theater is about creating illusions, working in a confined space is the reality in Les Fields Hall on the third floor of the Castle. Set designer Doug Sween built a versatile train car that can be converted from a dining car to one of the sleeper cars under short blackouts.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

"It’s very clever," Hansen said.

Although the novel has been adapted for film multiple times since the 1970s, the stage adaptation of the novel was written in 2017 by Ken Ludwig. As a playwright, Ludwig is known for his early fast-paced farces. Fast timing and moving characters on- and off-stage is an important part of his comedic shows and an essential element to this adaptation, Hansen said. Ludwig also winnowed the 12 characters in the novel to a cast of eight in the stage adaptation.

"For stage, you need it pared down," Hansen said.

The novel was written based on some of Christie’s own experiences on trains. Although she had never been stranded by a snowstorm on an Orient Express, she did spend 24 hours aboard an Orient Express in the Middle East after heavy rains washed away tracks in 1931.

The high-profile kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh's infant son in 1932 inspired part of the novel as well. A young firstborn of a famous family being kidnapped for ransom and later found murdered, and a heavy-handed response by investigators, are elements of Christie’s story.

"There’s a lot of history and things intertwined with this show," Hansen said.

Hansen says she’s an Agatha Christie fan and adds that Ludwig did a good job adapting the novel while keeping key elements.

"I’ve been an Agatha Christie fan since junior high," she said. "I have all her books, I love reading murder mysteries, I love writing murder mysteries."

It’s no surprise she brought the play to the Absolute board of directors. Her proposal was met with murmurs of excitement, she said.

That excitement carried into the call for actors, she added.

"People just flocked to auditions," Hansen said.

That gave her a large pool of talent to draw from in casting the show. The result is a strong cast of local actors. Four roles are played by two actors doubling up, she added.

"You have to make these characters very different and be able to be believable," Hansen said.

Interest in the show is high for the audience too. Early ticket sales have been strong, she said.

The print version of this story stated that "Murder on the Orient Express" opened Thursday, March 12. Absolute Theatre added the Wednesday, March 11 and 18 dates at a later date. We apologize for the error.

{{tncms-inline content="<p dir="ltr"><span>What: Murder on the Orient Express</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>When: March 11-14, 18-20, 7 p.m; March 15, 1 p.m.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span>Where: Les Fields Hall at The Castle, 121 N. Broadway Ave., Rochester</span></p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-016cfa89-7fff-c0e1-9c24-d99e6f241a37"><span>How much: $30 inner circle seating, $25 general seating;</span> <a href=""><span></span></a> <span>or 507-722-2731</span></span></p>" id="a929fdb3-36d1-4037-ad80-fdb77d5c42e9" style-type="fact" title="If You Go" type="relcontent"}}

What: Murder on the Orient Express

When: March 11-14, 18-20, 7 p.m; March 15, 1 p.m.

Where: Les Fields Hall at The Castle, 121 N. Broadway Ave., Rochester