In my "Sundry Sundries" this past weekend I neglected to mention/discuss the Great Lakes Theater Festival's production of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, which Joyce and I saw on Friday night at the GLTF's venue, the Hanna Theater in Playhouse Square.
We've been GLTF subscribers for quite a while--and I used to take Harmon Middle School kids down there (later in my career) to see productions--Shakespeare and others. The productions are generally solid (a few exceptions, some of which I've blogged about), professional. This was was no exception. It had a very strong cast--mostly GLTF veterans, about half of whom have been with the company for more than a decade. No weak links. Nothing even close. Gorgeous set. A large room, lots of windows upstage with a view of the sea (with sounds of sea birds as the lights came up.)
The play is--duh!--a murder mystery, but the mystery is not so much about who is committing the murders but about how he/she does it. (No spoiler alerts--I will not reveal anything.)
My problem was this: I didn't care who got killed--or who the perp was. All the principals are fairly unsavory, and the one who comes closest to being the "moral center" is the murderer himself/herself.
The story: A group of ten people--each unknown to the others--gathers in a pretty snazzy house on an otherwise uninhabited island, all at the invitation of a person no one seems to know very well. And then, yet another guest arrives: Death. One by one they all begin to fall (in one imaginative way after another), and one by one a collection of toy soldiers on the mantle diminishes with each murder. We begin with ten of them; with each death, one somehow disappears. (I was watching and could not see how this was happening.)
The toys accompany a sing-song, nursery-rhymey (dark) poem--see below:
Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.
Nine little soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were Eight.
Eight little soldier boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven.
Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.
Six little soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumble bee stung one and then there were Five.
Five little soldier boys going in for law;
One got into chancery and then there were Four.
Four little soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.
Three little soldier boys walking in the Zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.
Two little soldier boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was One.
One little soldier boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself
And then there were None.
—Frank Green, 1869
The murders all fit in some way with the rhyme.
This is, of course, all pre-cellphone. There is no "regular" telephone on the island, and the weather cooperates with the plot--the daily supply boat cannot sail, cannot arrive and bring help.
In England, Christie (1890-1976) originally published the novel in 1939 as Ten Little Niggers (that's right--just five years before I was born--amazing). In America, the title was changed to Ten Little Indians. It sold millions of copies and is, in fact, one of the greatest bestsellers of all time. And then the conversion to the latest title (And Then There Were None). There have been a few films. (Link to IMDB) And as I write this, there is another adaptation running on Lifetime ( Link to trailer) I'll probably stream it one of these days. It's gotten great reviews.
We enjoyed the GLTF production--admired it--even though, as I said, all the characters are deeply flawed. More so than the rest of us. 'Nuf said ...