Agatha Christie Baffles Us Again As Stray Dog Delivers With “And Then There Were None”

The classic curtain call as the suspects and victims strike a final pose on the stunning Stray Dog set of "And Then There Were None." Photo: John Lamb

The classic curtain call as the suspects and victims strike a final pose on the stunning Stray Dog set of “And Then There Were None.” Photo: John Lamb

It was a dark and stormy night…all of the mystery cliches come out in full force with Stray Dog Theatre’s season opener, “And Then There Were None.” Whether you remember it as “Ten Little Indians” or this title, Agatha Christie’s smart whodunit never ceases to intrigue as, one by one, guests at a party where the host doesn’t show begin to meet their maker. The audience was buzzing on opening night- both at intermissions and sometimes during the play itself- trying to guess which of the ten guests were behind it all and gasping as each body was discovered- onstage or off. It’s hard to resist a good mystery and Stray Dog has given us one of the best. A great companion piece to “The Mousetrap” that we saw at the Rep not too long ago, Agatha Christie never fails to intrigue and keep us on our toes.

Dr. Armstrong declares another victim in Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Dr. Armstrong declares another victim in Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

A truly ensemble cast gathers at the island home off the coast of Devon, England. The time is early August in the mid 20th century. So the guests are dressed appropriately and stunningly by designer Eileen Engel. Teamed with the stream-lined, ultra-modern (for the time) set designed by Rob Lippert and the effective lighting design of Tyler Duenow, you’re in the mood for a good, classic mystery before the cast even settles in. Stray Dog favorite, Sarajane Alverson, leads the way as the tres chic Vera Claythorne. She really captures the spirit of the time and genre with her wonderful performance. Joining her as the first of the guests to arrive is Jeff Kargus as Philip Lombard- they later become key players in solving the mystery (or are one or the other responsible for the death and destruction?).

Rob Lippert pulls double duty in this production as he plays a minor role as the boatman who ferries the guests to the island. But does he decide to stay and surreptitiously become the killer? Yes, folks, red herrings abound and one of them might turn out to be the real thing. Lindsay Gingrich and Jason Meyers play temporary hosts as the maid and butler (of sorts) as the real host has been mysteriously delayed. Did the butler, classically, do it in this one?

Suspicions begin to fester as victims fall in Stray Dog's production of "And Then There Were None." Photo: John Lamb

Suspicions begin to fester as victims fall in Stray Dog’s production of “And Then There Were None.” Photo: John Lamb

Mark Abels does fine work as Dr. Armstrong while Zachary Stefaniak also shines as the cryptic Sir Lawrence Wargrave. Michael Juncal delights with his not-so finely honed detective skills and Ryan Wiechmann, David K. Gibbs and Judy E. Yordon round out the cast to heighten the suspect list as well as the list of victims. Stray Dog Artistic Director, Gary F. Bell, directs this production with an eye for detail and heightened suspense. He cleverly lays the clues and  handles the clever “disappearing” soldiers from the mantlepiece with style and deception.

“And Then There Were None” is about as clever a mystery as you could ask for. Despite seeing the film and other stage productions, I was fooled again. I mis-guessed what I thought I knew. I’m ready now- if someone does this one again, it’s time to look for the how and why along the way. So, even if you’ve seen this one before, don’t be so sure- you may over-think it like it did on opening night. What a fun evening in the theatre. Don’t miss Stray Dog Theatre’s opening production of the season, Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None.” It plays through October 25th. Give them a call at 314-865-1995 for tickets or more information.

 

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