Regional Reviews: Phoenix
And Then There Were None
Christie's well-crafted plot sticks fairly close to her 1939 novel. Ten strangers have received invitations to visit a mansion on a remote island off the coast of England that is only accessible by boat. While one couple has come for employment, the rest have all been invited for the weekend by their host, who is strangely absent. A voice on a record played on a gramophone accuses all ten of murder, which sets off a series of murders in line with those in "Ten Little Indians." A large framed copy of that children's rhyme hangs over the fireplace, with each "guest" being killed off in order of the rhyme as payback for the murder they've been accused of. With no way off the island, and no phone or way to access the mainland, each guest has no alternative but to wait and see who will be killed off next as they, and the audience, try to solve the mystery of who amongst them is the killer.
Director Tim Dietlein has done a fantastic job with his expert cast to create realistic, nuanced personae that provide depth to the somewhat stereotypical characters Christie has written, and his pacing keeps the tension taut and the suspense high. His staging makes great use of Hale's in-the-round space, with exceptional set design by Brian Daily, Kate Hansen, and McKenna Carpenter that features a black and white art deco motif and embellishments on the theatre walls to surround the audience and provide a feeling of being in a remote house with the guests. Tia Hawkes's costumes are superb, with period and character appropriate outfits, and Dietlein's lighting design is exceptional. The sound design by Boyd Cluff adds a rich musical underscoring that works perfectly to add a level of intrigue to the production. The use of red pops of color in the costumes and props at various times in the show to tie into the murderous nature of the play is an added bonus.
There isn't a weak link in the 10-member cast, all of whom have excellent and consistent English accents, with each creating rich, realistic portrayals of these varied individuals. I think I've seen Josh Hunt in a half dozen plays at Hale and he never disappoints, including in this production where he plays the flirtatious, bold, and carefree Philip Lombard with charisma, assuredness, and a solid stage presence. Karis Eliese is simply wonderful as Vera Claythorn, and Gary Pimentel is deceitful as the shifty and secretive William Blore. Joe Musil is firm and patient as the retired judge who, even though he's also accused of murder, leads the impromptu investigation into determining who the murderer is. Virginia Olivieri oozes a condescending tone in every word she utters as the bible thumping, ruthless, righteous, and unremorseful Emily Brent.
Dennis Kelsch is very good as Dr. Armstrong, who, because of his medical knowledge, is a prime suspect, and J. Clay Lawson evokes a beautiful melancholic tone as the retired General accused of killing his wife's lover. Adam Guinn and Kayleah Wilson are warm and realistic as the couple hired to take care of the house and tend to the guests for the weekend, and David Michael Paul is headstrong and cocky as the rich, young playboy, Anthony Marston.
Because of the nonstop guessing of the identity of the killer, And Then There Were None has been adapted into countless films and TV movies, and copied by countless other writers. Christie's well-constructed play adaptation is receiving an excellent production at Hale Centre Theatre, with a flawless cast, perfect direction, and superb creative elements that make for a suspenseful thriller that will keep you guessing as to just who the killer is.
And Then There Were None runs through June 21, 2022, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.haletheatrearizona.com or call 480-497-1181
Producers & Casting Directors: David & Corrin Dietlein
Cast: (in order of appearance)