Jeff Clemetson | Editor
Murder mysteries are enjoying somewhat of a comeback in recent years. In addition to books, television shows and feature films, the genre is also enjoyed by revelers at special dinner parties with murder mystery themes. The continuing popularity of the murder mystery in no small part is owed to one of the original masters of the genre, Agatha Christie.
Lamplighters Community Theatre’s current production of Christie’s classic whodunnit “And Then There Were None” is an enjoyable step back in time to the roots of murder mystery storytelling.
The play is set in 1939 in the living room of a house on Soldier Island. Ten guests — revealed to have shady pasts — gather on the same weekend, invited by a mysterious host, and one by one are murdered in accordance to a nursery rhyme. As the guests are picked off by the murderer, one of the 10 toy soldiers on the mantle of the fireplace also disappears. The slow unveiling of the details of the guests’ past misdeeds throughout the play, as well as the stage prop of toy soldiers, makes for a fun way to keep the audience guessing what character will be the next to be victim and when.
Directed by Keith Anderson, the Lamplighters ensemble maintains a good pacing of the dialogue throughout the performance, which allows for some of more subtle British humor in Christie’s writing to come through and also gives the audience enough clues to play detective and guess who the murderer might be.
Is it the prudish Miss Brent (Kira Blaskovich)? Or perhaps it is the adventurer Phillip Lombard (Nathan Boyer) who partakes in morning whiskeys and flirts with Vera (Alycia McDonald), another suspect? Could it be the stoic and gruff Judge Wargrave (Bud Emerson), or the old General Mackenzie (O.P. Hadlock) who delivers the play’s most dramatic scene as he confesses a past crime of passion? Did the butler Rogers (James Flaherty) or his wife Mrs. Rogers (Jennifer Cramer) do it? Perhaps the culprit is the police officer Blore (Lee Price) who delivers many of the play’s comedic moments? Or is it the Dr. Armstrong (Eva Kvass) who has knowledge of poisons? Or the playboy lush Martson (Gabriel Huerta)?
The excellent character acting by the cast is even more highlighted by the set — one living room, although set designer Mary Anderson and sound designer Steve Murdock do wonders with well-timed lightning flashes, sudden blackouts and other noises that add action to the story. As a small community theater, the Lamplighters’ stage is perfect for this type of show — small set production with a focus on dialogue and story and in “And Then There Were None,” the acting keeps the audience enraptured up until the very end when the murderer is revealed. But don’t ask anyone who has seen the play or read the book who that is — as a matter of tradition, it is a secret to be revealed by attending a performance.
“And Then There Were None” is playing at Lamplighters Community Theatre through Feb. 10. For tickets and information, visit lamplighterslamesa.com.
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.