The cast of "The Unexpected Guest"

TCA Theater Group Tackles Christie Whodunit


ORADELL, N.J. — The Tekeyan Cultural Association’s Mher Megerdichian Theater Group (MMTG) marked its 20th year with performances of Agatha Christie’s play “The Unexpected Guest” at Oradell Elementary School on Saturday, April 15 and Sunday, April 16.

The plot of the murder mystery, performed in Armenian with English subtitles, was filled with twists and turns as audiences were kept in suspense about the wealthy Richard Warwick’s murder. The performance brought together the theater group’s core actors, as well as newcomers, to deliver Christie’s play in the Armenian language.

“We wanted to expand our repertoire,” said director and actor Harout Chatmajian. “We have done a lot of different authors, but we never had an Agatha Christie production.”

Harout Chatmajian and Talar Zokian on stage

The performance took place on the same weekend the MMTG premiered its first play, “Again Baronian,” directed by Tamar Hovanessian (wife of actor Mher Megerdichian) at the former AGBU Center in Saddle Brook, NJ, two decades ago.

When the group was first established, there were only nine actors and 5 committee members, according to Chatmajian. Over the course of 20 years, however, they have welcomed 50 members who performed around the country and in Armenia, staging works by William Saroyan, Hagop Baronian, William Shakespeare and Yervant Odian, among others.

“Our plays focus on Armenian authors,” said Chatmajian, acknowledging that the group at times looks to broaden its scope. “Armenian theater is over 2,000 years old, dating back to the Artashesian Kingdom, and it’s an Armenian tradition we want to keep alive.”

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Chatmajian also remarked on the range of directors who have worked with the MMTG, among them, Gerard Papasian, Krikor Satamian and Berj Fazlian, leaving an impression on the actors.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best directors in the Armenian community,” said founding member and actress Talar Zokian. “Each production has been a special experience in its own way.”

One highlight for her was performing Berj Zeytuntsian’s “All Rise,” in Gyumri, Armenia in 2015.

“The story line, coupled with the audience and being in Armenia during the month of April made it an emotional performance for all of us,” said Zokian.

In addition to the stage performance of “The Unexpected Guest,” an original score by musician Harout Barsoumian was composed to accompany the play. Featured on stage in previous MMTG productions, Barsoumian highlighted the “major role” of music in film and theater because it can “play with audience’s emotions.”

Since “The Unexpected Guest” combined mystery and comedy, Barsoumian decided to come up with a main theme for the production and then focus on the character’s melodies for each scene.

“Music adds to the play,” said Barsoumian, a member of the Huyser Music Ensemble. “Music is like clothing, because without it, the performance would be naked.”

A participant in MMTG productions for almost a decade, Barsoumian said everyone has music within themselves and the important part is to “try to find the soundtrack of each character in order to add some taste to the story.”

The theater group is currently preparing for its 20th anniversary banquet on September 29 at the Palisadeum in Fort Lee, NJ, as it reflects on its years of arts and culture.

“We’ve kept people in suspense, made them laugh and cry all by telling an intriguing story,” said Zokian.

“We are keeping the language alive,” added Chatmajian. “We are bringing people together and keeping our culture united.”

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