A Classic Murder Mystery Still Soars
Agatha Christie's award-winning And Then There Were None continues to be an entertaining thriller on stage
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The inhabitants of the house on a remote island begin to drop one by one, and (below, left to right) Matt DeCaro, Marilyn Dodds Frank and Zachary Keller are among the frightened guests.
The cast of Agatha Christie's popular novel-turned-play, And Then There Were None, takes center stage at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.
AGATHA Christie long has been considered by many to be the queen of the murder mystery with thrilling novels such as Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express, Crooked House, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The A.B.C. Murders, Evil Under the Sun and the long-running play The Mousetrap.
Now in the spotlight again is another of the award-winning author’s major works, And Then There Were None––perhaps her most controversial creation that was written in 1939 and is getting new treatment on the stage in a dramatic adaptation at Drury Lane Theatre.
Even though it was first published in the United Kingdom in 1939, the best-selling crime novel––and the film and stage versions that followed––can’t escape a part of the novel’s problematic history that many observers interpret as insensitive and racist. Inspired by a minstrel song and nursery rhyme, the controversial original title (not included here) was later edited (and still reflected insensitivity), but when distribution began in the United States in January 1940 the novel was only available under its current, more acceptable title.
Controversy aside, And Then There Were None continues to be one of Christie’s most popular novels, at one time the world’s best-selling mystery and the seventh most popular book of all time. The thriller focuses on 10 people, who apparently have no connection, invited to a mansion on Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon, England, where the guests later are informed by a mysterious voice that––at some point in their lives––each has been guilty of involvement in separate murders. Realizing that they have been tricked into coming to the island (and with no way to leave), fear and suspicion prevail as they are murdered one after another by an unknown culprit. The suspense is heightened by the fact that the unknown killer could be one of the guests.
The Drury Lane Theatre adaptation, running through September 1, is in the hands of skilled director Jessica Fisch, who has the extraordinarily daunting task of orchestrating the movements of 10 people in a one-room, bi-level, light-colored parlor designed by the multitalented Andrew Boyce, whose inviting set features a sprawling wall of glass and mauve-colored furniture. It is the backdrop that offers the talented cast an opportunity to excel in their portrayals of some frightened but suspicious characters who face deadly uncertainty. With death staring each one in the face, frantic efforts of self-preservation come to the forefront, revealing a host of personal faults, fears and peculiarities associated with the guests. Highlighted among the performers is Cher Álvarez (Vera Elizabeth Claythorne), who appears to be the most rational and the calmest of the group in the middle of a heart-thumping mystery. Matt DeCaro is excellent as the devious, retired judge Sir Lawrence Wargrave; Yousof Sultani is enigmatic soldier of fortune Philip Lombard; and Paul-Jordan Jansen appears to be a trustworthy retired police inspector and now private investigator. The cast is rounded out by memorable performances from Marilyn Dodds Frank (Emily Brent), Jennifer Engstrom (Mrs. Rogers), Casey Hoekstra (Fred Narracott), Zachary Keller (Anthony Marston), Paul Tavianini (Rogers) and Bruce A. Young (General Mackenzie).
And Then There Were None is a tension-filled romp that grabs theatergoers and won’t let go, reeling observers in closer and closer as they try to figure out who will be the next victim. Or perhaps more importantly is the issue of identifying the psychotic killer who is wreaking havoc on a panic-stricken group that realizes their lives are in peril.
All these years later––eight decades, to be exact––this groundbreaking murder mystery still delivers the breathtaking, edge-of-your-seat thrills that Christie intended.
The performance schedule is as follows: Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m., Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Student group tickets start at $35 and senior citizens’ tickets start at $45 for matinees. Dinner and show packages are also available. For individual ticket on-sale dates and ticket reservations, call the Drury Lane Theatre box office at 630.530.0111 or TicketMaster at 800.745.3000. You can also visit DruryLaneTheatre.com for more information.
Photographs by Brett Beiner