A murder mystery took place at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre for the opening night of “And Then There Were None,” based on the novel and play written by Agatha Christie and locally directed by Bruce Tinker.
Ten people were invited to an island off the coast of England, all for varying reasons like getting a job or being invited for a summer getaway. All 10 guests had not yet met their hosts, Mr. Ulick Norman Owen and his wife Mrs. Una Nancy Owen, but all received letters of invitation.
The play opens to the butler and cook-housekeeper, Thomas (Spencer Tomlin) and Ethel Rogers (Kristin Tomlin). As guests begin to arrive, they hurry to make the house presentable for party guests, without the hosts. They soon realize that their hosts left a plan for them in their absence, once the butler plays a record — on that record is a voice that lists all of the guests and accuses them each of getting away with murder and asks if each of them has something to say in defense. Around the room, each person takes a turn explaining, only two people don’t deny the charges and one just doesn’t respond at all. A nursery rhyme hangs on the wall that tells the story of 10 soldiers who all die one by one in different ways. Below the frame is a shelf containing 10 soldiers.
This is the just the beginning of the night. The 10 soldiers become symbolic for the guests. As each statue disappears, so does one of the people in the house, one by one, until we find out who did it.
The first thing that really stood out as I watched this play was the serious attention to detail in the costume and set design. The play is set in England in the 20th century, and each character's costume resembled that time period, as well as the house and props. Looking around the set, all the furniture and knick knacks on the shelf took you back to the time period. Even the paper used in the letters was thick and faded yellow, as expected for that time.
The performances by all actors were strong and carefully rehearsed, down to every movements. At all times, we in the audience are scanning the stage, looking at each character, especially as the play goes on and we get more suspicious of each character. You almost forget you’re watching a live performance. Specifically, Hannah Harrison, who played Vera Claythorne, kept true to her character and voice and even kept the audience guessing at times, giving her performance that much more complexity.
Tinker’s style of directing tends to give way to longer scenes, which adds to character development, but also can seem dragging at times with some dry dialogue, although it’s not enough to not enjoy the show. The story progressed nicely and rounded out at the end, satisfying any questions the audience may have had.
Anyone looking for a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, questioning your own thoughts, should see this show. It is definitely one that will take you out of your head and onto Soldier Island for a couple hours. It’s important to note that this play does have two endings, so an even greater thrill is not even knowing what ending you will catch.
“And Then There Were None”
Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
Jan 12-13, 16-20, 23-27
Wed-Sat, 7:30 p.m. Sun, 2 p.m.
Tickets starting at $29