AND THEN THERE WERE NONE: Not Only A Tense Murder Mystery, But A Charmingly Clever Fun Who-Dunnit
By: Joseph Sirota
Our beloved neighbor of affordable live theater for many decades, the Long Beach Playhouse (LBPH) has recently been doing an admirably brave job of stretching the envelope of plays (& some musicals) to bring a wider assortment of material and production styles to our town. As a reviewer seeing many, many shows over the years, I'm glad to have a wider menu of LBPH offerings to choose from, and a broad kaleidoscope to attract diverse tastes, ages, backgrounds, etc. for audiences. That said, I hasten to add that I'm also very glad to see that this current Mainstage mystery is a kind of classic play LBPH has always been very fine at, and absolutely a perfect fit for audiences in the horseshoe shaped intimate Mainstage arena. Mysteries couldn't find a better home!
Calling this an Absolute Classic Mystery play is truly an understatement. Indeed, it is written by one of the grandest Mystery writers, Agatha Christie (who proved women could bring murder tales to nerve-sizzling brilliance, with the best of "fellow" authors. One need only take note that AND THEN THERE WERE NONE was hailed as a detective novel way back in 1939 Britain, then captivated USA readers, and ultimately has sold over 100 MILLION books globally !! through the present. This makes it number one in mystery novel sales. If that isn't enough, this classic has pierced the movie world in several films, been well received in radio broadcasts, and (as you can now see live, before your very eyes) is a quite delightful mystery play. Three aspects stand tall. Firstly, this play manages to get us sitting on the edge of our seats as it is indeed a multiple mystery. Secondly, despite the homicidal scary tale, the play is quite charming, and dare I say a fun-filled evening as well. Thirdly, you get you money's worthy exercising your brain for 2 hours trying to see if you can outsmart Dame Christie and figure out who's killing these characters right under our noses. Can you figure it out "before" Christie lowers the boom? Hee, Hee, you must see for yourself.
Here's a very brief revealing of the storyline (even that I feel guilty about any interfering with you see it unfold without "peeps", except any clues Ms Christie hands you in her important order. There are 11 characters. 10 are "guests" having been invited to an island estate a mile off the British mainland. The 11th character is a local Italian boatman whose small motorboat is the only transportation to or from the island estate. All foods, household needs are ferried out by him once daily. As the guests file in and meet, they find they not only don't know each other, but nor do they really know the estate's owners, Mr and Mrs. Owens who invite then each via other friends they knew that mentioned them as interesting guests for all to come together for a holiday weekend. After a while they realize Mr & Mrs Owens won't be there this first night, so they are there alone with the two house servants, Mr & Mrs Rogers to care for them until the Owens join them all on day two. Hmm, it comes light that the servants have never met the owners either- and were just hirer days ago to prepare the house. All invitations, hiring's, etc were by typed mail and everyone just agreed because they get a free island holiday, and the servants, needed the job. All start to get a bit fidgeting at this, but the fidgeting turns to pure fear when a gramophone starts to play loud and eerily that they needn't wait for the party, as each and every one of the 10 guests was invited for overdue "PUNISHMENT", because they had each unapologetically caused the death of innocent persons in their separate lives, so the only thing they have in common is the deserve to be an will be killed by someone on the island before the weekend ends. Oh-Oh, that and the lack of party favors sure brings fear and darkness to one and all.
The characters are very well played by the large cast, including handling British accents, odd character histories, careers, backgrounds and different views spanning brazenly feelings they're strong enough to survive the deadly punishment vs. shivering to immediately find a way to escape the island before some crazed killer disposes of each, one by one. I won't tell more about characters, as there are Christie clues beneath the surface. Also, it's a truly large (hard to do justice to each) ensemble cast, with none being "lead" vs. "supporting" characters. All deliver fine intertwined portrayals and, wide ranging emotions under the excellent guidance of Director Sharyn Case. I can say that each of the following cast members merit Bravo's, and the audience's standing applause at play's end. Here's the fine cast in order of appearance: William G. Penn, Leslie Joyce, Jerry Loeb, Jennifer Whitney, Brian Canup, Lee Samuel Tanng, Cort Huckabone, Bruce Thomas Eason, Harriet Whitmyer, Douglas Seagraves and Bill Carson. A toast to each one, shaking us as a possible killer, while delivering laughs as well.
In addition to Director Sharyn Case's pulling the storyline together handily, the LBPH backstage team does a well-done bringing to life of the island set and gloomy estate sans owners. Good show ! to you unseen creative artistes: The team of Greg Fritsche, Donna Fritsche, Sean Gray, Danny Driskol, Brian Canup and Phyllis Nofts, combine in hard work and plentiful creativity to adroitly handle: Set Design, Costume Design, Lighting, Sound, and Stage-Management. The result is delivering just the right setting, and psychological feeling to bring Dame Christie's outstanding 72 years old classic scary, yet charming tale to life .. right here in Long Beach, Cal for us to enjoy. So Come Enjoy!
-- AND THEN THERE WERE NONE crackles with fears, and enlightens with well-carved humorous portrayals for well-appreciated "comic relief" on Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre, 5021 E.Anaheim St, Long Beach. Sched: Fri & Sat 8:PM. Sun matinees @ 2:PM. Closes: Feb 16. Tkts: $24 ($21 Senior, $14 Student). Call: (562) 494-1014 Website: www.LBPlayhouse.org