Playwright: Novel by Agatha Christie, adapted for the stage by Samuel French, Inc.
Company: First Company
Venue: First United Methodist Church Theater, 420 N. Nevada Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance: Sunday, October 30, 2016.
Agatha Christie is the undisputed master of the mystery genre, and perhaps her best novel is And Then There Were None. First published in the United Kingdom in November, 1939 as (pardon the historically accurate language), Ten Little Niggers. It became Christie’s best selling work and a global best seller, with sales of more than 100,000,000 books.
The plot is intriguing; eight people are invited to an island getaway. Their host, the mysterious Mr. and Mrs. Owens, are oddly not there to greet them. Instead, the butler and his wife and cook, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers are there to show them to their rooms. It’s a motley group of strangers who have never met, and are not sure what they have in common that merited the invitation.
And Then There Were None is a murder mystery, so I can’t go into plot details without spoiling the story. Suffice it to say there is ample mystery and, of course, multiple murders. This is a very well crafted story that includes some plot twists at the end. If you haven’t read the book or seen either the 1945 film or the 2015 BBC miniseries, you are unlikely to guess the ending.
First Company’s current production (through November 6) is an ambitious undertaking, featuring a detailed set and a large cast doing their very best British accents. Stranded on Soldier Island without a phone or a boat, the characters learn that one of them is methodically murdering the members of the group. Who? Why? How? The clues are in the nursery rhyme…”Ten little soldier boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine.”
Set designer (and director) Martin Fennewald puts the cast in an exquisite set that evokes the proper British seaside resort location. The details are impressive, from the double doors opening onto the veranda to the ceramic toy soldiers on the mantle. Fennewald as director uses the entire stage, at times blocking actors downstage in the presence of murder victims upstage. The British accents work; Fennewald has obviously put a premium on an authentic delivery.
|Daniel Thrasher (Marston).|
The large cast is capable and colorful; Daniel Thrasher’s Marston makes a splash early with his brash attitude and reckless driving. The proper British servants (Freddy McDaniel as Rogers, and Miranda Wright as his wife) are “spot on”. Landon Phillips is a distinguished if loopy General Mackenzie. Katie Harmon is intentionally insufferable as the self righteous, "holier than thou" Emily Brent. Michael Greenker is a weasel as William Blore, telling a variety of cover stories that make his demise more welcome than most.
There are four major characters doing the heavy lifting in And Then There Were None, and each is abundantly capable of that lift. David G. Olson is the physician for the group, pronouncing the deceased as, well, dead. He doesn’t drink, except when he does. He dispenses pharmaceuticals generously, raising some suspicions about his motives. Olson is completely credible as Dr. Armstrong. It’s a strong performance that anchors the story.
Bruce Carter has the gravitas to pull off his role as Sir Lawrence Wargrave, a distinguished judge. Carter’s performance is utterly convincing; he’s the guy that all the others look to for analysis and advice on their predicament. Carter pulls off a marvelous twist that makes the entire story work.
|Quinn Baker (Lombard).|
It is, however, left to the charming couple of Philip Lombard (played dashingly by Quinn Baker) and Vera Claythorne (Megan Rieger, more resplendent with each costume change) to resolve the mystery. There’s an undeniable chemistry between the two. Baker’s bio says “this role has been a learning and growing process…” Perhaps. But now it is Baker who should be giving lessons to his colleagues. Ms. Rieger’s performance is full throttle; she nearly fell off the couch at one point, and lost a shoe dashing around the stage at another point. She never skipped a beat, keeping entirely in character even when things went slightly awry.
Costume designer Katie Harmon has dressed the cast in colorful clothes, both formal and casual. Other than a loose hem on one of Ms Rieger’s dresses, the costumes were uniformly excellent. Local tuxedo rental shops must have had a field day outfitting the guys in the cast. From cumberbunds to white ties and tails, the guys looked like a million bucks. Once the run is over, the entire male cast could probably find work as formal wear models in commercials.
|Megan Rieger (Vera Claythorne).|
Agatha Christie packed her script with detail and nuance, which at times tends to make the story drag some. At two and a half hours, more action and less talk might have made a better story. Still, a production must stay faithful to the script, even when that script bogs down. Fair warning for those (like me) with any level of hearing loss: the acoustics are marginal in the theater. Most of the dialog was delivered at a sufficient volume for me to hear near the back of the room, but there are occasional frustrating dips in volume.
First Company’s production is great entertainment for entire family. It’s a crackerjack script written by the best in the business, produced and performed by a talented cast and crew.
|L-R: Bruce Carter (Wargrave), Daniel Thrasher (Marston), Quinn Baker (Lombard),|
Katie Harmon (Emily Brent) and Megan Rieger (Vera Claythorne).
UPDATE: I was wrong. The guys didn't rent tuxes. The fit and the styles fooled me; I thought they had to be custom fitted from a formal wear shop. Sorry...the First Company costume shop took care of the formal wear. And my top hat is off to them for that...
This show closes on November 6, 2016. This show is appropriate for all ages.
The nursery rhyme that Christie used for And Then There Were None originally referred to black children, and a later version used Indian children. The current version replaces those terms with “soldiers”:
Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little soldier boys travelling in Devon;
One said he'd stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in half and then there were six.
Six little soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one of them and then there were five.
Five little soldier boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little soldier boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little soldier boys playing in the sun;
One got all frizzled up and then there was one.
One little soldier boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
Photo Credit: First Company, photographers Helen Bagherian & Beth Harmon
Director/Scenic Designer: Martin J. Fennewald
Lighting Design: Kitty Robbins
Sound Design: Amber Hansen
Sound Board Operator: Kari Kiser
Lighting Assistant: Jestina Axum
Light Board Operator: Tristan Hilleary
Costume Design: Katie Harmon
Costume Assistants: Diane Harper, Rebekah Gibb, & Susan Maltby
Makeup/Hair Design: Trudy Fennewald
Prop Design: Grace Rudolph
Specialty Props: Sarah Greenley
Stage Manager: Suzanne Seyfi
Rogers: Freddy McDaniel
Mrs. Rogers: Miranda White
Fred Narcott: Wayne Heilman
Vera Claythorne: Megan Rieger
Philip Lombard: Quinn Baker
Anthony Marston: Dan Thrasher
William Blore: Michael Greenker
General Mackenzie: Landon Phillips
Emily Brent: Katie Harmon
Sir Lawrence Wargrave: Bruce Carter
Dr. Armstrong: David G. Olson