And Then There Were None

By on 13 October, 2017 in Amanda Burbank, Art, Fun with 0 Comments

By Melissa Tubbs

“Whole thing’s like a detective story. Positively thrilling.” declared Bo Jinright as Anthony Marston in one of many startling scenes during the Cloverdale Playhouse’s production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. He was quite right. This production was thrilling, and as it was a mystery, I’m going to do my best to avoid too many spoilers in this review because I expect that you’ll want to go out and see it for yourself. I had an amazing time, and I hope to see you there when I go back to watch the alternate ending. That’s right, this agile cast performs alternate endings on alternate nights!

From the beginning, the audience was made to feel like guests on the isolated Soldier Island as we listened to seagulls and gazed out the french doors at the beach, waiting for our host, artistic director Sarah Walker Thornton, to welcome us to the Playhouse. But this show would be different than ones we’d seen before. Thornton had been been given “instructions.”

Instead of to her, we listened as a disconcerting disembodied voice advised us to be wary throughout the night. “Watch your back, watch your footing on the stairs when you go the bathroom” we were warned, immediately immersed into the mood of the play. It was the perfect mix of suspense and levity, thanks to Director Mike Winkelman.

Soon the cast would hear their own unexpected and ominous recorded message instead of meeting their awaited host. Imagine having your darkest secret revealed to a room of strangers. The dramatic potential from this idea alone is rich, with the actors having a chance to experience a wide range of emotions as they process this strange predicament. However, the moment becomes even more as it turns out to be the catalyst for a string of well-executed death scenes. It was exciting to see how the talented cast played these scenes. The scenes were dramatic, surprising, frightening, even funny. I stayed on the edge of my seat wrapped up in the constant peril, trying to unravel the mystery along with the cast before it was too late for all of them.

The ensemble cast was amazing. The whole team worked together to create something great. They were acting even in between scenes, and it was very moving. Scene changes were used to maximum potential as our shell-shocked characters cleared the set of dead bodies. There were red lights illuminating the dark stage and ominous music building tension. After the intermission, thunder and flickering lights added to the anxious atmosphere.

Even though there was the constant threat of death, the play was more than a thriller. The script was clever. All of the actors were adept at both verbal and physical comedy that creatively used aspects of the superbly designed set. You never knew who was going to survive the next moment, and the cast kept the energy high with perfectly timed movements, maintaining a tone that kept everyone on edge. I was often startled. The room was full of gasps and surprised laughs from the audience.

Each character was unique and fully realized and their interactions with each other incorporated easy banter as well as emotional depth as they opened up and revealed their back stories. Christie tells a story of ten strangers defending themselves and their actions, while simultaneously being forced to form judgements about each other. It is a story of ten very different people and how they process guilt and responsibility. This heavy subject was handled with an expert touch, all the details of the directing, set, lights, sound, costuming, script and performances coming together in an effortless way that reflects much thoughtfulness and hard work.

I was thrilled to see some newcomers as well as our seasoned favorites in this strong ensemble cast. And though I did not see his face, the set was designed by the playhouse’s new technical director, J. Scott Grinstead. He had a strong presence throughout the night. He has brought a lot to the table with his first production here and I look forward to seeing what future theater magic he conjures.

So, clearly I liked the story, the actors, the details, the set… But what about the mystery? I was so immersed I kept forgetting to take notes. My fellow audience members and I tried to guess whodunit it at intermission and none of us were right! Apparently the murders were secretly being committed right there in front of our eyes, but the murderer was so sneaky that they were able to trick their fellow houseguests and me as well. I can’t wait to go back and see this again with a whole different ending.

The play will run October 12 through 22 with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and on Sundays at 2pm. Doors open 1 hour prior to showtime. On opening night we saw Ending A, the “happy” ending which was adapted for the play version of the story. It will be performed on even dates. On odd dates, the cast will perform Ending B, which reflects how Christie ended the novel. Tickets range from $10 to $18. Call (334) 262-1530 for tickets or purchase tickets online.

Amanda Burbank is an observer, savorer, poet, artist, mother, wife, and lover of beauty and life. Unexpected events found her family living nestled in the deep south woods within a family home built by her great grandfather. From there, she works as a freelance writer and photographer. Her heart is to live a life of acceptance and perhaps help others to see beauty in the unlikely through well crafted words and photographs of lovely ordinary everyday moments.

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