Monday, October 27, 2014

A true “who done it” at Geauga Lyric Theater Guild

“And Then There Were None,” now on stage at Geauga Lyric Theatre, has had a fascinating theatrical history.  The story, originally written in book form by Agatha Christie, one of England’s greatest mystery writers, was published as “Ten Little Niggers.”  That identifier was used because of the inclusion of a British “blackface” poem which serves as a major plot device. 

When it was published in the US, due to concern for political correctness, the title was changed to “Ten Little Indians.” Later, at the insistence of the Christie estate, the title was again changed in 1943.  This time, “And Then There Were None,” the last line of the rhyme for which the book and play were originally named, was selected.

The story centers on ten strangers who have been invited to a get-together on an island off the coast of England.  After they arrive, a recorded voice accuses each of having gotten away with murder.  Due to weather conditions, they are trapped.  One one-by-one they die.  As each person expires, a statuette of little soldier boys on the mantel disappear or break. 

A English nursery rhyme says, “Ten Little Soldier Boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine.”  It continues with references to sleeping, chopping up sticks, going out to sea, being hugged by a big bear and getting “frizzled up.”  The death patterns follow the words of the ditty.

Not only the title, but the plot went through transition.  When Christie was first asked to dramatize the book into a play, she refused.   She was aware that the ending would have to be changed as all of the characters in the book die.  She thought that to make the play successful, “I must make two of the characters innocent, to be reunited at the end and come safe out of the ordeal.”  She used the ending of the original rhyme to solve the issue.  It reads, “He got married and then there were none.”  Thus, she felt she could portray a different conclusion on stage than she wrote in the book.  Interestingly, the poem printed in the program does not use the wording to which Christie alludes.

The Geauga Lyric Theater production, under the direction of Deborah Cluts, develops the story and keeps the audience involved in the guessing game of who is killing the guests. 

Though British accents waver, and some of the performers act their roles rather than being the characters, each is believable enough to represent Christie’s ideas.

Strong performances included Bob McClure as Philip Lombard, Civia Wiesner as Emily Brent and Bob Kenderes as Sir Lawrence Wargrave.  

A believable set, effective lighting, and realistic sounds effects all aid in developing the production.

Capsule judgement:  “And Then There Were None,” is one Agatha Christie’s best known mystery books and plays.  The script gets an effective little theatre production at Geauga Lyric Theatre, holding the audience’s attention.

The show runs through November 2 at the Chardon Theatre, 101 Water Street, on the square in downtown Chardon.  For tickets call 440-286-2255 or go to