Theatre Mirror Reviews - "And Then There Were None"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


"AND THEN THERE WERE NONE"

by Agatha Christie, adapted from her novel
directed by Caitlin Lowans

Vera Claythorne ... Anastasia Barnes
Captain Phillip Lombard ... Robert Najrarian
Justice Wargrave … Stephen Russell
William Henry Blore ... Steven Barkhimer
Dr. Armstrong ... Shelley Bolman
General MacKenszie ... Gene Fleming
Miss Emily Brent … Ann Marie Shea
Anthony Marston ... Colin Kiley
Rodgers ... Jack Neary
Mrs. Rodgers ... Eve Passeltiner
Fred Narrascott ... Danny Marchant

If you missed Agatha Christie’s THE MOUSETRAP, at the Stoneham Theatre, you can now catch AND THEN THERE WERE NONE on the same stage, offering more of the twists and turns that go to make up a Christie melodrama: ten strangers are mysteriously brought together in a secluded island manor where they are murdered along the lines of the Ten Little Indians jingle, having caused deaths in their own pasts --- the ten statuettes on the mantle disappear, one by one, the dwindling guests conclude that the killer is amongst them and there is neither telephone nor boat to come to their aid… Ms. Christie’s novel concludes with everyone dead as doornails and everything explained, posthumously, but she provides a happy-enough ending for her dramatization and has kept most of the deaths offstage in the Greek manner. THE MOUSETRAP’s suspense comes from one strangulation sparking rampant counter-accusations whereas AND THEN THERE WERE NONE boils down to (a) tension, (b) murder, (c) accusation, (d) relax , (e) repeat --- you need to get down to One Little Indian for the payoff --- still, Ms. Christie’s clockwork remains fascinating even at its most mechanical, and today’s playwrights can learn much from her writing for ensembles within the Unities of time, place and action.

Adam Zahler alternated THE MOUSESTRAP’s laughs and chills to superb effect, ending his Act One with an echoing scream that lingered into the intermission; backed by Katheryn Monthei’s Art Deco setting, Caitlin Lowans offers a glossy but tepid evening with Big Band standards played between scenes (imagine the suspense that would build with more ominous music!). That Ms. Lowans’ evening is a success is due to a satisfying collection of character actors: close your eyes and you could be in the Golden Days of Radio, each characterization remaining vivid and distinct. Robert Najarian and Anastasia Barnes capture the conventional Young Man and Young Woman of Ms. Christie’s day --- he, bright and spiffy; she, prim yet spirited --- ‘tis a pity their love story is left in the shade when its wavering loyalty would generate its own suspense; after last seeing Stephen Russell as the loveable suitor in TALLEY’S FOLLY, how delightful to see him now as Justice Wargrave, as graven as Judgment Day. Steven Barkhimer continues to bluster, this time as William Blore --- more stretching, please. Ann Marie Shea is a marvelous Miss Brent, capturing in a nutshell what a cold race the British people can be, and Gene Fleming provides some heartbeats as the lonely, haunted General MacKenszie. Shelley Bolman and Jack Neary are well-placed accents as the doctor and the butler; when Mr. Bolman enters, late in Act One, his iconic presence signals the closing of the circle in which the musical chairs will soon begin.

May I safely assume that the Stoneham will consider Ms. Christie’s WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, say, in 2008-2009? What fun, if it does!

"And Then There Were None" (10-27 May)
STONEHAM THEATRE
395 Main Street, Stoneham, MA
1 (781) 279-2200