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And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians)

By Josephine Yun | Posted 2/22/2006

And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians)

By Agatha Christie

At the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre through March 11

Whodunit? Criminal mastermind Agatha Christie’s 1943 And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians)—based on her best-selling novel of the same name—is a mind-bending murder mystery that asks that very question. And the Spotlighters production keeps you guessing.

In August 1938, a motley crew arrives for a house party on Soldier Island off the coast of Devon, England: military captain Lombard (John Kelso), secretary Vera Claythorne (Karina Ferry), speed demon Marston (Michael Winchester), and South African-born Davis (Steve Avelleyra). Joined by Gen. MacKenzie (Mike Keating), the prudish Emily Brent (C.J. Crowe), and Judge Lawrence Wargrave (Dennis Latkowski), they are greeted by the new butler, Rogers (Pat McPartlin), and his wife, cook Ethel (Melissa McGinley). Dr. Edward Armstrong (Peter Fox) is the last guest to arrive.

Davis helps himself to the bar, unabashedly introducing himself to everyone. Lombard openly pursues Ms. Claythorne. Armstrong and Marston butt heads about reckless driving (Marston nearly ran Armstrong off the road on his way to the island). In the absence of their employers, Mr. and Mrs. Owen, Rogers and Ethel manage as best they can, but then a cold, sudden voice booms out of nowhere, accusing each partygoer of murder. Davis gets called out on his real name, which is William Blore. Next, Marston chokes on his drink and falls to the floor—dead. Ms. Claythorne then finds one of 10 soldier figurines standing on the mantlepiece dashed to pieces. According to the nursery rhyme hanging nearby, all 10 guests are slated to die.

Confession, speculation, and rattled nerves tinge the play as the remaining soldiers—and guests—disappear, evolving into paranoia. Though out of place with his lack of an accent, Latkowski is reliable as Wargrave. Ferry and Kelso produce great comic chemistry as Ms. Claythorne and careless, debonair Lombard. McGinley also gives a strong performance as Ethel. But the most outstanding acts come from Crowe—coolly deadpan as the bun-wearing, bespectacled Ms. Brent—and Avelleyra as Blore, swarthy and blustering in stellar Cockney.

The Spotlighters’ black-box theater is skillfully transformed into an English parlor room, boasting dark mahogany paneling, framed black-and-white photographs, 18th-century paintings, and a tasseled Oriental rug. Pale-lit French doors, paired with the sounds of the sea and gulls, convincingly lead outdoors, illuminating the feeling of being isolated on an island. A staged storm, thanks to precise lighting and sound, hardly felt that way.

And though And Then There Were None is cold-blooded, humor lightens it. The Spotlighters successfully wrap you in both laughter and suspense, the guests, and their plights, obscuring all hints at the killer’s identity. You won’t know who it is until it’s too late.

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