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January 19, 2016 > Theatre Review: And Then There Were None keeps audiences guessing

Theatre Review: And Then There Were None keeps audiences guessing

By Janet Grant

Picture it. A group of 10 strangers are lured to a remote island off the Devon coast of England. When they arrive, it is discovered that their host is missingÉ Stranded on the island by a huge storm and haunted by a creepy nursery rhyme, one by one the guests begin to dieÉ Is one of them a killer?

Thus begins ÒAnd Then There Were None,Ó the classic whodunit by the masterful Agatha Christie. Based on her best-selling novel, ÒTen Little Indians,Ó Christie herself adapted it into a play in 1943. Broadway West Theatre CompanyÕs newest adaptation brings it successfully to the Fremont stage with all its broody atmospherics, period sensibilities, red herrings, and constant suspense.

Noting the packed house on Friday night, Dame Agatha still has the power to draw in a crowd. And the talented husband and wife team of Angie Higgins and Tom Shamrell did not disappoint with their seamless direction of an excellent and well-oiled cast and crew. Equally impressive is Ms. Higgins and Mr. ShamrellÕs art deco set design. It is very much a period piece and works to transport the audience to another time and place.
As with any Agatha Christie mystery, ÒAnd Then There Were None,Ó has a veritable smorgasbord of eccentric characters to divert and hold your attention. Shareen Merriam is brilliant as Emily Brent Ð a stern, humorless and somewhat unhinged woman with a tongue that can cut you to the quick. Elizabeth Lowe is wonderful as the easily frazzled and dotty cook, Mrs. Rogers. Jim Woodbury, as the newly hired butler, Rogers, infuses his part with an air of disdain and not without a bit of humor.
Then there are ChristieÕs stock characters, the charming rake with a checkered past Ð Captain Philip Lombard depicted by Adam Weinstein. His timing and speedy deliveries helps the pulse of the play. And of course there is the young, devil-may-care ladiesÕ man Ð Marston, despicably portrayed by Ian Wilcox. His stilted slang and glib mannerisms is effective in his portrayal of the self-absorbed archetype. The role of the entitled authorityÐ Sir Lawrence Wargrave is effectively rendered by Doug Brook. His performance of the detached, legal mind is dead-accurate and convincing. And was it just me who noticed his resemblance to Raymond BurrÕs Perry Mason?
No Christie story would be complete without the character who usually sets and ends the scene, usually a working-class local Ð in this case the boatman Narracott, played by Keenan Flagg. And of course there is always the policeman Ð In this play there is no exception. Larry Barrott is wonderful as the fast-talking, upfront but secretive William Blore. His believability, comic timing and speedy delivery keeps the play on pace.
No murder mystery would be complete without a palatable air of Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum and Miss Scarlett. It is not hard to imagine as the play proceeds and the body count mounts, these board game characters coming to life Ð with General Mackenzie, Doctor Armstrong and Vera Claythorne. As Mackenzie, Kyle Smith is an amazing amalgamation of gruff bluster, and alternating lucidity. Sheila Ellam is excellent in her portrayal of the good Dr. Armstrong. Her history of alcoholism belies her goodness and hints to a lurking darkness just beneath a calm exterior. And Sara Renee Morris is convincing as the secretary and femme fatale, Vera Claythorne. Her amiability turns quickly to paranoia she helps keep the audience guessing as to the murdererÕs true identity.
Broadway WestÕs 20th season of bringing quality entertainment to the Tri-Cities starts out quite literally with a bang, with its production of Agatha ChristieÕs ÒAnd Then There Were None.Ó A classy, old-fashioned thriller, this is classic mystery at its finest and a promise for a night of reasonably good fun.
And Then There Were None
January 15 Ð February 13
8 p.m. (Sunday matinees at 1:00 p.m.)
Broadway West Theatre Company
4000-B Bay Street, Fremont, CA 94539
(510) 683-9218
Tickets: $10 - $27

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