And Then There Were None, onstage now at Harnett Regional Theatre and under the direction of Vicki Wade, is an odd little composition. Adapted from Agatha Christie’s novel of a…well…comparable (sort of)… name (there’s a long story there), the play, first performed in 1943, is definitely dated in terms of its dialogue and ease-of-understanding, but still, there is something under the surface that makes it- at least in this production- entirely watchable and perhaps even a bit chilling.
HRT plays out this production on a lovely set- one made to look just like a cozy, 1940s home, complete with cheerful blue walls that belie the story’s dark nature. And the play really is dark at its core, including such lines as, “And natives don’t mind dying, you know. They don’t feel about it as Europeans do.”
The set is perfectly complete, down to a set of wooden soldiers- each one representing a different character in the play- dancing across the mantle. Added in as a nice touch is a sewn rendering of the morbid “Ten Little Soldiers” nursery rhyme, which serves as both a sort of catalyst and soothsayer for the show’s action, framed above the fireplace.
Taking place on a largely deserted – save for the ten guests- island off the coast of Devon, the story begins when ten characters come together, all without really knowing their host, save for a suspicious invitation.
Instantly, certain characters make their mark as memorable and important. Among the ten, there’s Vera Claythorne (C. Olivia Blaggrove), a young and pretty secretary. Blaggrove portrays this endearing role, one of the story’s leads, to a T, nailing the accent the role requires and just generally being lovely, charming, and strong as an actress. Another standout is Amy J. Langdon as Emily Brent. Langdon lends this character all of the fussy, critical, bad-example-of-a-Christian nature that Christie’s original work calls for. Likewise, RicK Stephenson nails the want-to-be-hoity-toity nature of his character, William Blore, a retired police detective who thinks he’s been summoned to the island to do some undercover work. There’s also the smarmy but oh-so-fun Philip Lomard, portrayed by local-favorite and utterly charming Timothy Morris, as well as servants Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, portrayed effectively (and with great accents!) by the pleasant-to-watch Eugene Chance III (he’s got a “face made for the stage”) and adorable Blair Chance, respectively.
The first act, which is surprisingly brief but very tension-inducing, unfolds with a voice-over accusing each of the guests of a heinous crime, for which each must face punishment. The action progresses as each character reveals how he or she got an invite to this gruesome “party,” and the story just whirlwinds from there.
Because Wade takes such a minimalist approach in her staging of the mystery, Christie’s brilliant writing is really able to shine through here. Perhaps because of its age and rarity of performance as of late, the script manages to feel fresh, new, and charmingly rustic. Wade does not rely on fancy staging or special effects but on her obvious faith in the durability of Christie’s script, which, for the most part, stands the test of time.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some modern touches here. Lighting designer Nathan Camp adds in some nicely-done rain and lightning effects, which add to the spooky atmosphere, but it is really the simpler touches- such as the suspenseful scenes done entirely in candlelight- that add the most beauty to this production.
These nice touches make the show powerful and “scary’ enough so that it never resorts to gruesome imagery, even when the most brutal of deaths- and yes, Christie’s script calls for deaths a-plenty, take place. These deaths are heard, not seen, at least in most of their detail, which serves to, surprisingly, make the story even more chilling. In fact, the subtle way in which the deaths are handled adds a lot of class and dignity to this retelling of the story.
The only problems that exist are with the script and its age- as well as the fact that an entire novel has been condensed to a stageplay- not with the actors or direction. There are a lot of characters and action to keep up with by modern standards, but even that serves only as a sad testament to our technology-shortened attention spans and is not a detriment on the part of this production. Viewers who are willing to put aside distractions and immerse themselves in this show will find a wonderful, throw-back style performance that truly captures the heart of this story and brings it to its full and horrifying life.
The Harnett Regional Theatre presents AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25 and 26 and 2:30 p.m. Sept. 27 in Stewart Theater, 114 N. Wilson Ave., Dunn, North Carolina 28334, in Historic Downtown Dunn.
TICKETS: $15 ($10 students up to age 18 and seniors 60+).
BOX OFFICE: Purchase tickets at the door or at the Dunn Area Tourism Authority, 103 E. Cumberland St., Dunn, NC 28334.
PRESENTER: http://onlinehrt.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/onlinehrt.
And Then There Were None (1939 mystery novel): http://www.agathachristie.com/christies-work/stories/and-then-there-were-none/193 (official web page) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_Then_There_Were_None (Wikipedia).
And Then There Were None, a.k.a. Ten Little Indians (1944 Broadway mystery): http://ibdb.com/production.php?id=1316 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_Then_There_Were_None_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Agatha Christie (English crime novelist and playwright, 1890-1976): http://www.agathachristie.com/ (official website), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=3916 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0002005/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agatha_Christie (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.