REVIEW: Drury Lane’s ‘And Then There Were None’ mysteriously lacks intrigue
By Jack Gardner
Drury Lane‘s “And Then There Were None,” which has begun its run through Sept. 1, has lead me to solve the mystery of why Agatha Christie plays are seldom produced anymore.
The play, which like most Agatha Christie books and their adaptations, is a murder-mystery “who-done-it?” setup, where the audience is encouraged to act as a detective alongside the cast of characters. However, this production lacks the style or spirit that can elevate a simplistic story such as this to exciting new heights.
“And Then There Were None” adapts the novel of the same name, which happens to be one of the best-selling books of all time, and involves a motley crew of characters who have all been invited to a mysterious mansion on a remote island off the coast of England.
The group, consisting of a resourceful, young secretary Claythorne (played by Cher Álvarez), a rouge adventurer Lombard (played by Yousof Sultani), an undercover detective Blore (played by Paul-Jordan Jansen) and a retired judge Sir Wargrave (played by Matt Decaro) to name a few, arrive on the island to discover an unknown benefactor is planning on murdering them all for their past vices which have resulted in the deaths of others. However, the mystery murderer, who the guests suspect as being one of themselves, has a maniacal obsession with the nursery rhyme “Ten Little Soldiers” and plans each death to mirror that which is described in the rhyme.
Despite the acclaim for Agatha Christie’s mysteries and her undeniable success, the shows based on her novels fail to conquer the test of time. While serialized mysteries may have been captivating in 1940, when “And Then There Were None” was released, today they often function as mere novelty. However, this bit of novelty entertainment does, undeniably, fit well with the atmosphere of Drury Lane’s classic “dinner theatre,” which is itself a novelty now. In addition, “And Then There Were None” lacks the trope defying twists or wit of some of Christie’s other highly produced works, such as “Murder on the Orient Express” or “The Mousetrap.”
Despite this, the production value offered at Drury Lane does succeed in immersing the audience in the world of the play, making the night’s entertainment exactly what was advertised and not much more.
The production features a set, courtesy of Andrew Boyce, that delivers on the mysterious, lavish mansion with an ocean view, spring-loaded with several contraptions not just designed to doom the guests. These include water spouts that simulate a rainstorm outside the windows, blood spurts that shoot from deaths offstage, and statue soldiers that smash on their own as each guest is slowly picked off. The various props by Cassy Schillo, from Lombard’s revolver to the aforementioned statues, are often complemented by Ray Nardelli‘s sound design, resulting in jump scares that offer momentary excitement to break up the long stretches of waiting.
The performances were all satisfactory, with Jessica Fisch‘s direction aiming at each actor leaning into the stock aspects of their characters as opposed to making them seem unique in contrast to every other murder-mystery. The main factor in highlighting these qualities were the voices; each having a unique one indicative of their professions and personalities. Lombard the posh, English bad boy flaunts a very nasally, forward voice while Blore, the London detective, boasts a gruff Cockney accent. Many scenes were underacted, the opposite of what one would expect from a cartoonish mystery plot, such as the cast sluggishly reacting very unsurprised at the death of a compatriot before their eyes or the nonchalant way in which the surprise villain reveals themself (no spoilers, though).
Ultimately, this production serves as safe, highly produced entertainment that leaves little resonance past the novelty. “And Then There Were None” ends up being exactly the experience you expect it to be; the opposite effect a mystery/thriller should leave you with.
FYI: Tickets are $50-$65 at www.DruryLaneTheatre.com or at (630) 530-0111