by Clark Groome
Two reactions followed me home from the opening night of the Walnut Street Theatre’s production of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None.” The first is that despite its pedigree and popularity as a theatrical adaptation of one of Christie’s best selling and most highly acclaimed novels, “And Then There Were None” is probably better on the page than on the stage. The other is, as a mystery lover, that I had a very good time.
Ten people are invited for the weekend to a mansion on an isolated island off the coast of Devon, England. During the course of their first night together, the disembodied voice of their host, as it turns out recorded on a phonograph record, shatters the pleasant get-together with accusations that each of the ten is a murderer.
As the plot unfolds, one-by-one the guests are murdered. The only people on the island are the ten in the mansion. Whodunit? Unlike a lot of stage mysteries there is no investigator to sort out the mystery. That is left to the audience to figure out. And that’s what made this somewhat creaky old play fun. I’m pretty good at figuring out mysteries, and even though I read the novel ages ago, I was totally fooled.
The Walnut’s production features a strong ensemble — Sharon Alexander, Jessica Bedford, Damon Bonetti, Laurent Giroux, John-Charles Kelly, Paul L. Nolan, Wendy Scharfman, Peter Schmitz, Harry Smith and Greg Wood. All of them, except the inestimable Greg Wood, ham it up a tad too much, likely at the direction of Charles Abbott, who very well might have been trying to make the play a bit more amusing than it actually is.
But no matter, the mystery remains the core of the evening, and thanks to Christie’s, skill the whole affair was a clever and amusing escape.
The physical production — especially Andrew Thompson’s spectacular mansion parlor, Kendall Smith’s lighting and projection design and Dan Roach’s video design — plays a large role in the show’s impact.
Sure, despite the multiple murders, “And Then There Were None” is lightweight entertainment. But it’s fun and surprising in its ending. That isolated island is not only the location of mayhem but also of a typically wry British approach to it.
The mayhem and mystery continue at the Walnut through April 26.
For tickets, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787 of visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org