By Andy Arnold
If you fancy a trip to Broadway to see a play, a less expensive offering is the Vagabond Players’ adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. This production is faithful to the original and is sure to thrill Christie fans.
The setting for both Christie’s book and play is a mansion on the isolated Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon, England, in the Twenties – after World War I but prior to the Great Depression. The mansion’s parlor serves as the set. Four doors, a love seat, a table set with drinks and a few chairs are spread strategically around the stage to give the cast plenty of space to perform their craft. One day and one night backdrop are used during the various scenes to depict time. An updated, politically correct version of Frank Green’s 1869 poem, now called 10 Little Soldier Boys is prominently displayed in the living room on the set.
Ten strangers are brought together as guests of an absent couple no one has actually met, Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owen. Most of the guests are nearly destitute. Others include a retired general, a retired judge, and a renowned psychiatrist.
The eight guests expect a relaxing weekend hob-knobbing among the rich, enjoying wonderful views and fine dining. All of this is on the Owen’s dime, of course. The two-person staff was enticed by double wages for the weekend gig. Nine of the 10 and the audience, even those familiar with the story, are in for a big surprise.
Once the guests arrive and the character development begins, it is easy to dislike Anthony Marston (Conor Donahue) from the start. The character is egotistical, amoral and irresponsible. He feels no remorse and accepts no personal responsibility after recklessly killing two children with his automobile. His complaint is that his driver’s license had been suspended for a year as a result.
A phonograph plays before the dinner in which everyone in the house is accused of murder. Everyone except Capt. Philip Lombard (Eric C. Stein) denies the charge. After all, his desertion of his troops is fairly well known. One character (we won’t spoil who) falls dead after swigging a whiskey. One of 10 soldiers on the mantle disappears as “One choked his little self and then there were nine.”
As the second scene begins, this whodunit pace quickens. The next death might have been by natural causes. Gen. Mackenzie (Peter Wilkes) is splendid remembering how he loved his much younger wife, her betrayal and his ultimate revenge against the young officer who stole her love. Mackenzie, the oldest member of the cast, accepts they are all going to die and awaits the Grim Reaper sitting by the seashore.
Soon, everyone realizes there is a homicidal maniac on the loose. The only question is who? Mr. or Mrs. Owen? Hanging Judge Lawrence Wargrave (David Gamble) has already figured out U.N. Owen is unknown. Is it one of the guests and if so who? As the number of survivors boils down, the finger pointing and acquisitions increase as Christie planned some 80 years ago. Director Eric Stein stays true to the original plot. The entire cast works well together. The costumes, which include multiple changes, are accurate to the period portrayed. Christie fans will enjoy this adaptation.
Running Time: Two Hours and 30 minutes, with two 10-minute intermissions.