University Theatre’s production of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” is playing in Clair Performance Hall from November 9-12 and promises to be an evening of murder, intrigue, and excitement. The actors have prepared greatly for the past couple of months and are ready to share this piece of theatre that they have created with the audience.
“And Then There Were None” centers around ten strangers who are stuck in a secluded mansion on a mysterious island. After each of the individuals are accused of murder, they begin mysteriously getting killed off one by one.
Throughout the play, the audience wonders who the murderer is and who is telling the truth. Jake Gould who plays Phillip Lombard says that in his performance, he tries to create a laid-back feel to mask the gritty nature of the character. This acting choice is meant to keep the audience guessing throughout the evening. Although there is the air of mystery through Christie’s characters, actors like Noah Stitley who plays Anthony Marston has tried to keep his character grounded, despite the chaotic of the events of the play.
Along with tighter characterizations, the cast has recently seen the exciting additions of the productions creative elements which include evocative sets, lighting, and startlingly realistic sound effects. For instance, one of the main set pieces in the production is the grand staircase of the mansion. The first rehearsals for “And Then There Were None” started in Rafters Theatre where pieces of tape represented everything from a staircase to a table. According to Noah Sundberg who plays Sir Lawrence Wargrave, “Getting rid of the tape outline helps, but every time you add another creative element to the production, it gets more and more in depth which in turn makes the actors experiences richer.” The sound of a gunshot in a climactic scene or even a biscuit to eat in a mealtime scene brings the actors and the audience deeper into the world of the play.
Along with the creative elements, the direction of Millersville’s Tony Elliot has also greatly guided the actors through the creative process. The cast of “And Then There Were None” say he is very honest with what he wants and is always willing to give clear examples to support his vision. Noah Stitley says that “Since Elliot is a strong actor in his own right, he is able to understand the perspective of the performer, and that greatly assists the actors in making the characters their own.” Making a performance natural for the actors and audience is extremely important to him and that skill is vital in any director.
The actors have really grown through the creative elements of the production, but this week they get to work with one of the most important and exciting factors: the audience. The audience in a theatrical production is very much a character in and of itself. Nikki Schwartz who plays Emily Brent says that she is extremely excited to see the audience’s reaction to the play. As Noah Sundberg, explains, “The audience changes the performance completely. As a performer, every time you get comfortable with the timing of the play, adding an audience means you have to wait for their reaction and therefore guiding them through the twists and turn of the story.” They are the ones who set the tone for the evening.
From this show, the audience can certainly expect a night of mystery, but Jacob Dickens who plays General Mackenzie encourages the audience to always be skeptical of the words of the characters. This is a murder mystery after all, and trying to determine who is telling the truth and who is not is sure to provide constant thrills in this engrossing production.