Take an isolated island, bring together 10 unrelated individuals who suddenly discover each has a deadly secret, add an unknown host whose object is definitely not a fun-filled weekend and you have Dame Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” the current offering of the South Bend Civic Theatre. The play, which began as a novel in 1939 with a definitely politically incorrect title, soon became “10 Little Indians” and, with the 1945 film version, premiered as “And Then There Were None.” By any name this tale, touted as the world’s best-selling mystery novel, maintains a fascination for both readers and viewers. The theatrical version opened in 1943. After 60-plus years, its popularity is as strong as ever.
The reasons for this are evident in the SBCT production, directed by Leigh Taylor. Set in the living room of an island estate, the assembled guests find themselves without transportation back to the mainland and, of course, a major storm brewing. A gramophone recording lists the guests by name as well as defining his/her crime, each of which resulted in a death which has remained unpunished. Retribution is promised. Taking it at first for a prank, it soon becomes obvious to all that the threats are serious. Above the mantel hangs a children’s poem below which stand the figures of 10 soldiers. As each of the guests is dispatched according to the rhyme, one of the soldiers is broken. It finally becomes apparent that the aim of the weekend is death for them all. Designer David Chudzynski’s period (1938) set utilized the entire stage, allowing the actors a comfortably large playing area of which they make very good use. There were few problems with muffled dialogue, as in past productions, and the use of accents was fairly consistent throughout. Costumes also were close to if not right in the proper time and the lighting provided the proper atmosphere as the murderous weekend moved one by one, to claiming all of the “soldiers.”. Each of the players brought sustained and believeable individuality to his/her character and built the growing suspense and increasing histrionics in the “stiff upper lip” tradition of all Christie mysteries. The island guests are played by Andrea Smiddy Talkington, Matthew Bell, Sean Shank, James Bain, Marc Adams, Mary Ann Moran, Craig MacNab and Nathaniel Smith, with Roy Brokema and Lisa “Lee” Towne as butler and cook. Jenny M. Dolph serves as stage manager and also crews the elusive boat. Having seen the play and the film several times and, of course, knowing just who did it, it was a pleasure to allow the more than capable cast to draw us into the heightening tension and even provide a bit of a jolt when the real villain was disclosed. “And Then There Were None” is one Agatha Christie that stands up well to the test of time.
“AND THEN THERE WERE NONE” plays at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Warner Mainstage Auditorium, 403 N. Main Street, South Bend. For reservations: 234-1112 from noon to 6 p.m. weekdays or visit www.sbct.org.