Village Players of Hatboro opened their sixty-fourth season with the Agatha Christie thriller, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. This is the theatrical adaptation of her novel, also entitled “Ten Little Indians” (the original title contains a racial epithet and was changed by the publisher in 1940), where ten strangers are stranded together on an island under false pretenses and told by a Gramaphone recording that they are all sentenced to death.
The production at Village Players takes place on a very simple set, indicating the main room of the mansion on Soldier Island. Much is asked of the audience, as the set is very Spartan and cramped, and the “outdoor” area behind the doors and windows is a blank white wall. As the characters arrive and enter the mansion, it becomes a bit difficult for them all to navigate, an unfortunate limitation of their space. They do persevere however, and as this is a murder mystery, the blocking becomes easier as the play progresses. The lighting accents the passage of time, sometimes too well…a scene that takes place before dawn is a bit too dark to see the actors’ faces.
Some of the performances were very solid. Laura Buttenbusch as plucky secretary Vera Claythorne is at first efficient and sweet, but as the events of the evening progress we see her more steely side. Beverly Albertus as the rigid Emily Brent is cold and moralistically self-superior. Matthew Freilich as the judge Sir Lawrence Wargrave, is the proper combination of genius and cold calculation.
Director Zachary Palmer (assisted by Howard Matter) did a credible job in navigating the cast through this story and the set limitations. There were a couple awkward moments, and one blocking decision that was very baffling, but in a 3-act play that is bound to happen. He did need to spend some more time with his actors studying the lines and working some of the subtext into their characters, as well as assisting some of them in line delivery. For instance, Brett Melnick (playing Anthony Marston) is probably much too young to understand the use of the word “Wizard” as a descriptive adjective, and as such many of his lines lacked the comedic touch they should have had. Other characters’ lines were delivered with an emphasis on the accents rather than the intention of the line…line delivery is still essential, even with British accents.
The pace is brisk, not allowing the actors a chance to lose character or momentum…even with the limitations described above, the audience was speculating as to who the murderer was during the intermissions. There are some bumps in the road, but the script and the story are classic, well worth the viewing. The show runs through Oct. 22.
AND THEN THERE WERE NONE
by Agatha Christie
Directed by Zachary Palmer
October 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 2011
Village Players of Hatboro
401 Jefferson Avenue