Murder mysteries by Agatha Christie
are often like jigsaw puzzles to be solved with a number of pieces to be
put into place before the picture can be revealed. This format is
realized to perfection in Sutter Street Theatre’s current production of
And Then There Were None.
As the play begins we see the
drawing room of a magnificent mansion on an island. Two servants, Mr.
and Mrs. Rogers (Ken Watkins and Kate Muris) are awaiting guests for a
weekend holiday. They have been hired only a week before and have never
met their employer, who, it seems, won’t arrive until the next day.
The eight guests at this event
arrive one by one, and we soon learn they have never met and are quite
uncertain about the purpose of the engagement. After the guests have
assembled in the drawing room they hear a strange recording accusing
each of causing the death of someone in the past for which act none has
been punished. A poem framed over the mantelpiece details the deaths of
“ten little soldier boys” who died, one by one, until “there were none.”
The punishment of the guests, following the clues in the poem, is
apparently the reason for the gathering, and the deaths begin
immediately when Marston (Ryan Taylor), a self-absorbed car enthusiast,
keels over, apparently poisoned.
Retired Judge Wargrave (Stephen
Kauffman) and detective Blore (Mark Joyner) take charge, convincing the
others that the killer must be one of them as there is no one else on
the island. Their proposals are challenged by Lombard (Aaron Horne), a
dashing young adventurer who begins to flirt with Vera (Amy Willliams),
the secretary to the host’s wife, whom she also has never met.
The guests retire for the night, and
Mrs. Rogers, the maid, dies in her sleep. Her husband tries to carry on
as the perfect butler until he is murdered with an ax while cutting
firewood. Mackenzie (a dottie Jon Beaver), a retired general with a
guilty conscience, is sure he is next, and goes out for a walk from
which he never returns.
In short order, Emily Brent, an
elderly viciously religious moralist (Hazel Johnson) is poisoned in the
midst of the company, her slumped-over corpse amusingly unnoticed by the
others who walk around her discussing the situation. Blor dies when a
heavy statue is dropped on his head. Judge Wargrave is soon shot and
the nervous Doctor Armstrong (Mark Ludwig) goes over a cliff and drowns.
The only two apparently alive at this point are the seemingly most
innocent lovers, Vera and Lombard. This being an Agatha Christie story,
however, the surprises have not ended.
It is perhaps not fair to single out
individual performances from a perfectly cast ensemble of actors, each
of whom personifies his or her character convincingly. I can’t resist
mentioning my favorite, however, the self-righteous Emily Brent, who had
caused the suicide of a sixteen-year-old girl. Hazel Johnson made me
believe fully in this vile woman.
The play, under the direction of
Janelle Kauffman, moves suspensefully from one murder to another, and
the ending, for those unfamiliar with the story, is sure to shock and
surprise. Lovers of mysteries, lovers of puzzles, lovers of entertaining
theatre will have a delightful evening at Sutter Street’s And Then
There Were None.