PLEASANT GROVE — I really don’t know why I’ve done this to myself, reviewing another Agatha Christie production within two months. It’s challenging to review a production where I don’t want to give anything away, but I want to gush about the performance. Seriously though, Agatha Christie productions are delightful this time of year, and the Pleasant Grove Players production of And Then There Were None directed by Howard Little and Kathryn Little was such a fun night out. I love Agatha Christie’s works, and the Pleasant Grove Players performed this production well to meet my high expectations.
I never had the privileges of reviewing a Pleasant Grove Players production until this week. I loved the cozy little theatre tucked inside of the public library. There is something about a small theatre that is just so intimate and makes the play more exciting; especially when I sit down and get to take in the well-crafted set (design by Tina Fontana) before the production begins. This small setting was ideal for the script And Then There Were None, where ten individual are gathered on a small isolated island. Each individual is invited by letter or wire to spend time at this island retreat. However their mysterious host fails to arrive, and not long into the first twenty-four hours, guests begin dying one by one, with their deaths strangely following a framed nursery rhyme about, “Ten Little Soldier Boys,” found in the sitting room. I had read the novel by the same name when I was in high school, but I had forgotten most of the details.
I enjoyed the performances of each character, but I was most impressed with the performance of Dennis Purdie who played Sir Lawrence Wargrave. Of all of the performers, his performance was the most believable. He seemed like an actual retired judge but also a real person who wasn’t just an actor on stage. This performance contrasted with Matthieu C. Kohl, Dr. Armstrong, who had several moments were his character’s reactions felt more rehearsed than genuine reactions. These moments were a bit explosive and melodramatic and didn’t seem to quite flow with the fairly calm demeaner of his character the majority of the time. However, this judgement could be a personal preference on my part and is the only thing I felt that I can nitpick on. The entire production was smooth and professionally done. Fontana as Emily Brent was wonderfully despicable as a self righteous middle age spinster. I particularly enjoyed the scene between her and Vera Claythorne (played by Thea Cantos) when Miss Brent is talking about the sins of others and then proceeds to read a passage from the Bible. Vera’s disgust at Miss Brent was along the same lines as my own, making this a scene that I was fully immersed in.
I also loved the easy chemistry between Vera and Phillip (played by Treydn Rosewinter). There were the fun flirtatious scenes that are reflective of a newly developing relationship, but there were also moments of genuine concern for one another throughout the production that showed that the relationship was deepening. It was easy to see that Vera preferred Phillip’s attention to that of the Anthony Marston (Seven Harrison), and I loved seeing the characters of Vera and Phillip grow during the production.
There were specific props that needed to go missing or show up without the audience noticing, which was pulled off smoothly and without drawing attention. The props, set, and costumes designed by Fontana were all beautifully done so that everything fit with not only the time period but also with the elegant air of the rich island house. I was slightly bothered by Vera’s lock of curls that escaped her hair net right as she came on stage, but that was a minor detail that wasn’t an issue in the coming scenes. I loved Vera’s rich emerald velvet evening gown. It’s was attractive and tasteful, even if Miss Emily Brent (Fontana) thought it was immodestly tight, a fact that was highly amusing once I realized that Fontana was also the costume designer.
The light and sound designs (Howard Little and Kathyrn Little) were simple and basic. General flashing of stage lights was the lighting, and all the sounds came over the same speaker system. In many ways, it was refreshing to be reminded that not all theatre companies have the setup to do elaborate sound and light designs, and those basic techniques are still effective. My only complaint about the tech was that the boat sounds in the opening scenes seemed overly loud, causing me to actually think it was set on a boat because of it. The boat horn heard later in the production was at a better volume for creating an illusion of it being off in the distance.
I thoroughly enjoyed this production and would happily watch it again. If you enjoy small intimate theatres with solid productions and a strong cast, you will probably enjoy this Pleasant Grove Players production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It is also a fun show during this Halloween season.