Death by Fiat Richard La Violette's take on the Agatha Christie-style murder mystery is not so much a whodunit as how-will-it-be-done. MI5 agent Derek Ruthven (James Enstall) is ordered to kill a Nazi sympathizer, and then must figure out a way to accomplish it in a country manor crawling with guests. That Ruthven is then assigned to investigate the murder is a clever twist on the demands of the genre. Enstall certainly looks the part of a proper British agent, and he maintains a no-nonsense crispness that suits the character and the dialogue. Michael Brick turns in a similarly solid performance as Sergeant Moore, the assisting officer who sees more than he lets on. The story relies a bit too much on the fact that everyone — everyone — seems to know exactly what time it is when they perform mundane tasks, and the final scene is bogged down by over-explanation and an unnecessary detour that links Ruthven with his target in a fashion that feels contrived. Directed by Vanessa Roman. Presented by First Run Theatre through August 3 at DeSmet Jesuit High School, 233 North New Ballas Road, Creve Coeur. Tickets are $10 ($8 for students and seniors). Call 314-352-5114 or visit www.firstruntheatre.com.
— Paul Friswold