Host: Diana Rigg.
Mystery!’s” 14th season opens with gentlemanly Chief Inspector Alleyn (Patrick Malahide), Ngaio Marsh’s British copper, appearing in a trio of two-part mysteries with his assistant, Fox (William Simons), and artist Agatha Troy (Belinda Lang) along to nab a killer. It’s a long investigation for Alleyn and for the viewer.
In a production that yells 1930s-’40s, “Final Curtain” moves laboriously through the time-honored motions of the mellow English murder mystery. An acclaimed British actor, Cedric Ancred (Jonathan Cullen), gathers his WASPish family in his castle for his 76th birthday.
Painter Troy, asked to do his portrait, is the only outsider, and she reports the case’s background to Alleyn (and the audience) so he’ll investigate it. Seems Ancred has a chorus girl (Emma Amos) living with him, and though Ancred reads his latest will that spreads his estate among his survivors, someone’s still worried enough to kill — and does just that.
Alleyn takes over at the castle. With expert mental surgery and an upper-class attitude, the inspector interviews the big theatrical family, pokes around the enormous manse and nearby town, and comes up with the answer.
Director Martyn Friend moves methodically among the large cast of characters, but those involved in the case are either lamebrains or eccentrics supposedly repping legit English actors’ behavior offstage. The interps are extravagantly blatant, intense without being involving; as a result, it doesn’t much matter whodunit.
Malahide’s Alleyn plays it suave and correct, and Lang’s Troy is efficient. Cullen’s Ancred is unsurprising, but Samantha Glenn as a peculiar child offers a good, disturbing characterization.
George Kyriakides’ handsome production designs are correct and, as they should be, oppressive.