Crime Pays

Great detective Nero Wolfe charges big fees, and Park Square is banking on him.

The Red Box at Park Square Theatre
Photo courtesy Park Square Theatre

Big and big-brained, armchair detective Nero Wolfe ranks right up there with Sherlock Holmes. Like Holmes, he’s appeared in dozens of stories and novels and has been brought to life on radio and television. Now, thanks to Park Square Theatre, he’s making his world premiere onstage.

The Red Box, which concerns the death of a model who ate a piece of poisoned candy, is the fourth of 33 Nero Wolfe novels written by American pulp fiction writer Rex Stout from the 1930s through the 1970s. The stage adaptation is the work of Joseph Goodrich, whose Hitchcockian thriller Panic was a hit for Park Square in 2011.

The Red Box sounds like it has the makings of another hit. “It’s a ripping good mystery with one of fiction’s most interesting characters: huge physically, anti-exercise, a gourmand who never wants to leave his house, and an extreme intellect whose mind works at warp speed 24/7,” says director Peter Moore. “He raises orchids. He’s a snob and doesn’t care who knows it.”

The play will have the kind of fast-paced dialogue you expect from a hard-boiled detective story. “People talked to each other differently then. They were more formal and had a better vocabulary. The playwright has done a good job of capturing that language,” Moore says. “It’s a traditional locked-room mystery full of fast-talking people.”

May 30–July 13. Park Square Theatre, 20 7th Place W., St. Paul, 651-291-7005,