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REVIEW of 'And Then There Were None'

Captain Philip Lombard (Connor Voeltz), Detective William Blore (Kevin Kaas), and Marsden Anthony (Chase Stehley), examine a suspicious paper, as Dr. Edward G. Armstrong (A.J. Krumholz) listens in the foreground, during last week's rehearsal of the Mitchell Area Community Theatre production of "And Then There Were None." (Candy DenOuden/Republic)

If you are a fan of the mystery novel, chances are you have made your way through the collected works of Agatha Christie. "And Then There Were None," currently staged by Mitchell Area Community Theater, is the dramatic adaptation of Christie's most popular and successful novel of her career.

Some confusion surrounds the title of this work. It has been published under four separate titles since it first came out 75 years ago. The play's title succinctly sums up the story line. Director Aaron Krumholz has staged a dark, intense version of the play, perfect for a spooky October evening.

Ten people are brought to Soldier Island off the coast of England by a mysterious host. They become isolated and confined there when a supply boat is unable to reach them because of a storm. The guests have one thing in common: all are reportedly guilty of murder, but were never convicted in a court of law due to the limitations of the circumstantial evidence against them.

An "unsub" has chosen to seek revenge. One by one the guests are murdered in accordance with the progression described in a nursery rhyme. As they interact, we learn about their past crimes and become caught up in the rising tension and paranoia they experience as they begin to suspect each other.

Although Christie's work is violent in nature, she, as an author, was careful to generally have the act of murder occur out of the reader or viewer's sight. This show is no exception. Despite some rather grisly deaths, there is no blood, but there are plenty of poisonings, stabbings, and gunshots. Krumholz and lighting designer, Jake Habermann, utilize an eerie technique of bathing the stage in red lights whenever there is a death.

The ensemble cast, made up of veterans and newcomers, is led by Captain Philip Lombard (Connor Voeltz), Sir Lawrence Wargrave (a strong debut by Max Hartman) and secretary Vera Claythorne (Samantha Menning). Mike Baker and Micaela Nelson are well-cast as the butler and housekeeper, as was Kevin Kaas as a private detective.

The cast has meshed well, and, as a whole, deliver a fine performance. The first act was slow in places, but the pace picked up dramatically after intermission. Many of the cast members attempted British accents, some with better results than others.

The set, built by Justin Joramo and Chad Voeltz, and decorated by Megann Davis and Devin Carey, is one of the most aesthetically sophisticated that has ever graced the ACT stage. Special mention to Stan Sherwood who painted a large and lovely seascape backdrop that gives authenticity to the lonely mansion on an island in the English Channel.

It is interesting to note that this novel was published in 1939 just when the shadow of war was looming over Europe. Christie's talent for sending a tingle up your spine has never been in finer form. As the season turns, take time to reacquaint yourself with the master of mystery that she is. "And Then There Were None" is a great place to start.

The show by Area Community Theatre has performances Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre. Tickets are on sale at the theater or more information is available at 996-9137 or www.mitchellact.org.

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