And Then There Were None is considered to be Agatha Christie’s murder mystery masterpiece. Ten strangers all arrive, for various reasons, on a remote island where their host, Mr. Owen, is unusually absent. During their first dinner on the island, a mysterious gramophone record plays and accuses each of the guests of murdering another person or persons within their lifetime. One by one, the guests mysteriously begin to die and the deaths eerily imitate the deaths described in the “Ten Little Soldiers” poem inscribed upon the wall. The remaining guests must discover who is the true killer and stop the murders before the guests dwindle down to, as the poem predicts, “and then there were none”.
Directed by Justin Kiska, And Then There Were None at Way Off Broadway is a suspenseful and well-performed murder mystery, leaving the audience guessing until the final moments of the show in this intimate and intense production. The play features very convincing and memorable performances from a strong ensemble cast.
Matt Provance was very entertaining as speedy dare-devil driver Marston and his quirky character voice was an intriguing choice for the character. Bill Kiska gave a hilarious performance as hard-of-hearing General Mackenzie. He made the sudden transition from a doting old man to a potentially creepy and insane suspect very believable.
Timothy M. Day as Dr. Armstrong displayed a commanding stage presence. As a doctor who studies nervous disorders, Davis did a fantastic job of giving his character several nervous tics and habits to heighten the tension, especially in the full ensemble scenes. Dino P. Coppa Sr. portrayed a very level-headed and efficient Sir Lawrence Wargrave, with another stunning character transition as tensions heightened.
Joseph Leon as Mr. Rogers and Amanda Spellman as Mrs. Rogers were an incredible pair. Their lower-class Cockney accents were spot-on and they worked very well together as a comic relief couple. Spellman was delightfully sassy and spunky and Leon showed his wide acting and emotional range when Mr. Rogers dutifully reacts after a significant plot twists occurs.
As supporting characters, Jordan B. Stocksdale and Jessica Billones give incredibly strong performances as William Blore and Emily Brent, respectively. Either role could have been portrayed as a one-dimensional, blunt caricature in less experienced hands, but Stocksdale and Billones expertly make their characters layered and nuanced. Stocksdale was deliciously over-the-top as voracious eater, William Blore, and his sense of comedic timing and extremely dry humor in the role, coupled with a few powerful dramatic moments, made a scene-stealing performance. Billones was equally impressive as cold, cranky and rigidly religious spinster, Emily Brent. Her unwavering disapproval of practically every situation and sharp, crisp diction created a memorable performance and her monologue about the dismissal of a former employee made one both hate the character yet admire Billones’ performance at the same time.
However, the true standout members of the cast were young leading romantics Matthew Crawford as Philip Lombard and Sarah Biggs as Vera Claythorne. Crawford had the responsibility of normally breaking the tension in many scenes with a crass remark or perfectly timed insult and never failed to lighten the mood. His devil-may-care attitude and sarcastic demeanor never faltered throughout the suspenseful show and Crawford perfectly captured the essence of a charismatic leading man from the 1930’s or 1940’s. Biggs gave a phenomenal performance as young secretary Vera Claythorne. Her reactions were effortless and she made a very complex character instantly likeable and genuine. The couple had an effortless ease onstage and wonderful romantic chemistry.
Individually, the actors all gave very solid, impressive performances. Scenes between the survivors remaining in Act II were very intense and nicely executed. However, the pace of the show dragged at times. Audience members were left unsure at a few moments whether longer, drawn-out moments were meant to be a suspenseful, dramatic pauses or whether someone had dropped a line. As it was an opening weekend performance, the issue may resolve itself hastily as the run continues and a sturdy rhythm and sense of timing is established over multiple performances.
All of the suspenseful intrigue occurs on a single unit, intricately detailed set. The furniture is elegant and the design is a rich color palette, fitting for a wealthy English vacation cottage. The lighting was an interesting detail, as it began in soft, warm hazes and as the murders progressed and characters were eliminated, so were some of the light sources. At one point in Act II after a storm, the stage is lit entirely by (for obviously practical reasons) electrical candlelight. In addition to directing, Justin Kiska also designed the set and lighting. Costumes by Bill Kiska were very appropriate to both the time period and individual characters. There were very few bold colors to distract from the action, as many of the outfits were muted shades of black, gray and tan and the attention to detail in the men’s suits was impressive.
And Then There Were None has left audiences in suspense and surprise for over 50 years and the talented cast members in the Way Off Broadway production continue that tradition.
Running time: 2 Hours and 15 Minutes, with one intermission.
And Then There Were None plays through February 28, 2015 at Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre – 5 Willowdale Drive – in Frederick, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 662-6600.