Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Christie's plot is straightforward, well-constructed, and sticks fairly close to her novel. Set in 1939, 10 strangers have been invited to a party on a remote island off the coast of England that is only accessible by boat. They've all come for various reasonssome for employment, others for a weekend getaway. The fact that their host is absent doesn't seem to bother them. However, when a record is placed on the gramophone of a recorded voice that accuses each of the ten of murder, a string of murders ensues, in the same order as the famous children's rhyme "Ten Little Indians" that hangs over the fireplace mantle, with the guests assumedly getting their comeuppance for the deaths they're accused of. With no access to the mainland, no phone, no escape off the island, and no one else on the island but the ten guests, there is no choice but to wait for the killer to strike again while trying to determine just who amongst them is the killer.
Director Darrell Spencer does a fairly good job in keeping the tension taut and the intrigue high. He makes good use of the large playing space in staging the action so the audience gets good views of the actors, which isn't always easy to do with an in-the-round production. He also does good work in ensuring that the majority of his cast create nuanced characters who will keep you guessing as to which among them is the killer without simply playing into the stereotypical nature of the characters Christie created.
However, a few members of the cast are just adequate in their portrayals and some of the accents employed are not entirely consistent. With a large cast of actors there are a few that get more stage time and stand out. These include Matthew Cary, who is shifty, firm and secretive as William Blore, and Leonard Muhammad, who is appropriately stoic as the man who, even though he's also accused of murder, leads the investigation into trying to determine which one of them is the murderer. Also, John Hull (who also designed the stylish costumes) is headstrong and flirty as Philip Lombard, while Jill Murray Ferrara is poised and professional as Vera Claythorne. Murray Ferrara's bio says she only recently started acting but you'd never know it from her realistic portrayal. Skye Ayers is feisty as the bible-quoting, no-nonsense Emily Brent. Paige Westall, Dale Fridley, and Roy Major each get a moment to shine as three of the other accused murderers, and Chris Stonebraker and Courtney Turner round out the cast as the husband and wife who have been hired to take care of the guests and the house for the weekend.
Leroy Timblin's set design and Claire Geare's props use several pieces of period furniture and fixtures to set the moody tone of the show. Andrew Cupo's lighting provides a nice level of suspense with varied hues, dark colors, and plenty of shadows that help heighten the intrigue.
And Then There Were None is one of Agatha Christie's best-known novels and her well-constructed play adaptation is a chilling thriller full of suspense. Desert Foothills production has a fairly good cast with several members that stand out, and direction with good pacing that helps build the tension. Christie wrote an ending that is different from the novel and there are also two alternate endings available for the play. Desert Foothills presented one ending last weekend and will present the other ending for the performances this coming weekend.
And Then There Were None runs through January 26, 2020, at Desert Foothills Theater, with performances at the Cactus Shadows Fine Art Center, 33606 N. 60th Street, Scottsdale AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.desertfoothillstheater.org or call 480-488-1981.
Directed by Darrell Spencer