Murder on the Nile

Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Nile” will be co-directed by Center Players Artistic Director Bernice Garfield-Szita and Zach Berman. Set in the 1940s on a paddle steamer traveling on the Nile River, the play tells the story of Simon Mostyn, who has recently married Kay Ridgeway, a rich woman, after having broken up with his former lover Jacqueline. The couple are honeymooning on the paddle steamer, accompanied by a bevy of memorable characters, including Jacqueline, and surrounded by plenty of intrigue. During the voyage, Jacqueline works herself into a state of hysteria and shoots and wounds Simon. A few moments later, Kay is found shot dead. By the time the boat reaches its destination, an audacious conspiracy has emerged — but will the criminals go free?

Meet the Cast

Claudia Stoy  (Beadseller)
Claudia is just getting back into the acting business after a “few” years off. Her experience has been predominantly on the stage, although she has stuck her toes into television and film performance. She started performing when she was 4 years old, as a musician, first piano, then cello and voice. She went on to get a master’s degree in performance on the cello from Mason Gross School of the Arts. In her thirties, she began acting on stage, something that she always wanted to do. She was on the boards for over ten years. After a few twists in the road, she returns to her first love, theater, from an even more mature perspective as a colorful bead seller in Center Players’ production of Murder On The Nile.

Lauren Friedman (Beadseller)
Lauren is very excited to be part of this amazing cast! She was last seen on the Center Players’ stage as Faith in I Do Love the Holidays… Sometimes. Favorite previous roles include Cookie in Rumors, Miriam in Beau Jest, Little Red Ridinghood in Into the Woods, Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank. Hugs to Lex, Anya, Sierra, and Liam!

Aaron Keyes (Steward)
Aaron is without a doubt knowledgeable and studied in the performing arts and is most accomplished in acting. He was seen performing at First Avenue Playhouse in With This Ring and was involved in many shows with Phoenix Productions and with the Kicking & Swearing One-Act Festival at Hamilton Stage, Union County Performing Arts Center. Aaron was also featured in the 2013 film Proving Grounds.  He will be applying his acting skills in other venues with his upcoming move to California.

Annette Curran (Miss Ffoliot-Ffoulkes)
Annette moved to NY in her 20s to pursue an acting career, performed in several Off-Off and Off Broadway shows and worked on a few “soap operas”. She gave up acting to raise a family and her two sons are her proudest accomplishment. She resumed acting at the Jersey Shore in Community Theatre over a decade ago, and started directing about 4 years ago. Recently she turned her hand at playwriting and was thrilled that South Street Players chose her script, Driving Ms. Crazy for their one act festival which she directed and starred in. Her most recent appearance was as Ouiser in Steel Magnolias at South Street Players.  This is Annette’s debut performance with Center Players and she is excited about joining their very talented and welcoming family.

Elizabeth Stamat (Christina Grant)
Elizabeth is proud to be in her second show at Center Players. Her last production on this stage was Crossing Delancey as Isabelle Grossman. A few other productions she has been part of are Dog See’s God as Lucy, Stop Kiss as Callie Pax, Eye of God as Janice and Amadeus which she was nominated for a Perry award as Constanze Weber. She would like to thank her family and friends for their love and support. Elizabeth is delighted to be part of this talented cast and wonderful crew.

Michael Gonzalez (William Smith)
Michael is very pleased to be returning to the stage in his debut performance with Center Players.  He has appeared in numerous roles at Kelsey Theater in Mercer County, notably in A Flea in Her Ear (Etienne), Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Milt), A Chorus Line (Al) and Arsenic and Old Lace (Mortimer).  Michael‘s other regional credits include Children of Eden (Chorus) at the Washington Crossing Open Air Theatre and Passing Conversations (Lem) Off Broadway at the John Houseman Theater in New York City.  As a member of the comedy troupe, Punk Tart, Michael performed regularly at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City, where he studied improvisational and sketch comedy with Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Besser.  Michael would like to send love and thanks to all his wonderful friends and family, for all their support, especially his lovely children Mo and Nina, who inspire him every day.  Enjoy the show!

Patty Champon (Louise)
Patty is excited to be a part of Center Players’ Ensemble. Her first appearance on Center Players’ stage was this past December 2016 in I Do Love The Holidays… Sometimes. She also recently performed for Center Players in her first dramatic reading as Wilbur the pig in Charlotte’s Web at Park Avenue School in Freehold. “Thank you to Zach and Bernice for the French speaking direction and to our wonderful cast & crew. Theatre is truly my passion!!”

Tom Shewchuk (Dr. Bessner)
Tom is thrilled to be back for his fourth show within the friendly confines of Center Players, having previously appeared as Chief Bromden in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Deputy File in The Rainmaker and Torvald Helmer in A Doll’s House.  As always, he thanks God for providing the way to pursue his passion, his beautiful wife and daughter for putting up with his rehearsing at home, and his wonderful cast and crewmates for “injecting” so much fun into this production.  On with the show!

Andrea Barra (Kay Mostyn)
Andrea is very excited to be making her Center Players debut! She has been performing in community theatre in New Jersey and New York for over twenty-five years. Past favorite roles include: Beatrice in A View from the Bridge, Claire in Rumors, Meg in Brigadoon, Young Ellie in Leader of the Pack, Claire in Proof, Sister Hubert in Nunsense, Effy in The Spitfire Grill, and Juliet in For the Love of Juliet!. She also performs regularly as a cabaret singer with the White Elephant Burlesque Society in venues around New York City and New Jersey. Many thanks to a very welcoming cast, and to Zach and Bernice for this opportunity. Love to my always supportive family and friends. For you, otter.

Matthew Gochman (Simon Mostyn)
As a Center Players regular, Matt is happy to be performing in his 10th production at this great theater.  Other productions include Mr. 80% (Sam), Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Kenny), Arsenic and Old Lace (Officer O’Hara), A Christmas Carol (Stanfield), Play it Again Sam (Dick), All My Sons (Frank), The Rainmaker (Noah), And Then There were None (Lombard), and Crossing Delancey (Tyler).  Past credits also include Romeo and Juliet (Prince), Hamlet (Fortinbras), The Pillowman (Tupolski), Art (Serge), Bus Stop (Will), Rehearsal for Murder (Leo), The Sunshine Boys (Ben), Pygmalion (Freddy), The Other Place (Richard), the Perry-nominated original show Horseshoes, and many others.   

Jon Weinstein (Canon Pennefather)
Jon is looking forward to his first show here at the Center Playhouse.  Jon’s history of stage work in Monmouth County goes back to the mid 70’s at The Dam Site Dinner Theatre. One of his proudest moments in theatre was founding Play Dead Productions, a professional murder mystery company that entertained audiences in the tri-state area from the mid 80’s to late in the 90’s. Jon would like to thank Father James Wallace for lending him a set of his “work duds” (hopefully, this will put an end to the rumor that Jon mugged a priest and stole his clothes).

Bonnie Palmer (Jacqueline De Severac)
Bonnie has been on stage since she was little. She was always acting in school plays, and was part of the choir. She attended high school at The Performing Arts Academy and she has been doing plays and murder mysteries with The Grange Playhouse for the past 3 years. Bonnie just graduated cosmetology school, and her first experience with Center Players was styling hair for the cast members of And Then There Were None. From there she appeared in The Sunshine Boys. This will be her second time on stage at this theatre, and she couldn’t be happier!

Jonathan Rothman (McNaught)
Jonathan has been a regular at Center Players for the past three years, most notably for running tech (lighting and sound cues) and assisting in set construction. He has performed in the play readings of American BuffaloGlengarry Glen RossCharlotte’s Web, and as the Foley effects person in the radio play, It’s a Wonderful Life (2014). He is very excited to perform in this production, and wants to thank the directors, cast and crew for this incredible opportunity and their continued support.

Zach Berman (Co-Director)
Zach is very happy to have made his directorial debut co-directing Murder on the Nile with Bernice Garfield-Szita. He worked with her as an actor, stage manager, and lights and sound at Center Players since 2011. It has been a great experience for him to work along side Bernice and learn from such an experienced director. Having performed in Murder on the Nile at SOAR productions in 2010, it has been a transformational experience for Zach to switch from acting to directing and taking a deep dive into character development and looking at all the production aspects from a director’s point of view. 

Some of his favorite plays that he has performed include: Murder on the Nile as Smith, The Heiress as Arthur Townsend, The Unexpected Guest as Jan Warwick, The Passion of Dracula as Renfield, and Crossing Delancey as Sam Posner, the Pickle Man

Some of his favorite shows to stage manage have been: Tuesdays with MorrieBus StopPlay it Again SamBrighton Beach Memoirs, and Chapter Two.

He would like to thank his co-director as well as his cast and crew for their immense talent and patience with him. It has been a delight working with everyone. He would also like to thank his father, Jeff Berman and his girlfriend Bonnie Palmer for their love and support. All of this has been a blessing!

Bernice Garfield-Szita (Co-Director)
Bernice is delighted to have the opportunity to co-direct Murder on the Nile by Agatha Christie with Zach Berman with whom she has worked with over the past six years and who has always done an extraordinary job in all the aspects of theater he has participated in.  It takes trust and respect to collaborate as co-director, something she has in great quantities toward Zach.

Bernice is no stranger to the Arts and Community Theater. She has been acting, singing, writing, designing and directing for over 45 years! She has been involved with the growth of Center Players since it’s inception in 1996 and helped open the doors to Center Playhouse in 2001. She has directed many plays since in which the actors and designers have been nominated for the prestigious Perry Awards. These awards of recognition are given by the statewide NJACT organization: New Jersey Association of Community Theaters. She is particularly proud of the award winning production of The Cemetery Club, which she directed in 2012. This play was given 9 Perry Nominations and received 3 Perry Awards for Costumes, Supporting Actress, and Outstanding Production of a Play!

Some of her other favorite plays she directed are: Crossing Delancey, The Immigrant, The Heiress, Charlottes Web, I’m Not Rappaport, Driving Miss Daisy, Real Women Have Curves, Steel MagnoliasArsenic and Old Lace and A Doll’s House.

Bernice wants to thank this amazing cast and crew who put their hearts and souls into bringing this story from the page to the stage with such fine acting and production skills.  And of course, she is especially grateful to her loving husband, Bob, who has produced every play she has directed for Center Players and supported her love of theater with great patience and encouragement.