STAGE REVIEW : ‘Ten Little Indians’ Fitful but Classic Whodunit’s Still a Kick
A few of the performances in the Cypress Civic Theatre Guild’s “Ten Little Indians” do justice to Agatha Christie’s grab bag of shadowy characters, but the production is weakened by awkward pacing and generally fitful acting.
Christie’s much-produced, much-copied 1944 whodunit has become a cliche of sorts, primarily because it has been the inspiration for so many murder mysteries that have followed. The classic setup of “Ten Little Indians"--a disparate group of folks, each with a dark secret, is brought together to face “trial” by an unseen, taunting host--has been duplicated in several plays, and Christie’s facility with character sketches has inspired many writers.
But even though it takes us over familiar, even campy ground, “Ten Little Indians” still holds interest. There may not be any suspense in learning who the bad guys are but getting to the unmasking can still be a kick. Unfortunately, at Cypress there isn’t enough momentum to carry us through and get us involved in the clever plotting. Director Craig Harreld shouldn’t let everything lag so much--if you are going to play this number straight (Cypress does), it needs a crisp, no-nonsense handling to be at all provocative.
The cast seems self-conscious here, as well. This further gives the production a haphazard feel that minimizes the plot’s intrigue.
There are, however, some exceptions. As Sir Lawrence Wargrave, William H. Wildman is commanding enough to seem like a legitimate judge but just shady enough to raise tiny doubts about his integrity.
In another nice turn, Darren Boyett brings a deceiving charm to Philip Lombard, the adventurer and seeming ne’er-do-well who must answer for the crime of leaving his men behind during an expedition. As Anthony Marston, Jerry Kokich has one of the smaller roles (he’s dead by the end of the first act), but he does a good job in his short time. His Marston, accused of killing two kids in a high-speed car accident, has the right cavalier attitude.