M&G's Christie mystery offers thrills
Masque and Gown will have audiences wondering just that during their production of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, which opened last night and continues tonight and tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. in Pickard Theater.
The murder mystery follows eight strangers who arrive for dinner with a mysterious host on a remote island off the Devonshire coast in the early 1930s. The guests are joined by a housekeeper and butler who are already at the mansion. The characters quickly realize they have never met the host and do not know the reason for their invitations. The plot thickens when each character hears a recording accusing him or her of a specific, undiscovered murder committed in the past.
The suspense builds as guests start dying one by one in accordance with the "Ten Little Indians" nursery rhyme hanging over the fireplace. It begins, of course, with "Ten Little Indians going out to dine; One went and choked his little self and then there were nine." A Clue-like plot unfolds as the characters try to determine who among them is the murderer.
The play has been performed since 1943 and is based on Christie's novel, And Then There Were None. Supposedly, Christie altered the ending of the play to make it more romantic. According to her autobiography, Christie said, "It was so difficult to do that the idea had fascinated me... I wrote the book after a tremendous amount of planning, and I was pleased with what I had made of it."
Masque and Gown's production is directed by Noah Berman '06. Berman, making his directorial debut, said he chose the play because he had prior experience with it in high school and really enjoyed it. Berman felt the need for Masque and Gown to try a murder mystery. He said the largest challenge has been "putting my hands into every department."
"I learned so much about backstage elements," he said. "I wouldn't call it a challenge, but a learning experience."
The cast and crew have been working on Ten Little Indians since the beginning of December. "It has been gratifying to see something I chose go from paper to this," Berman said.
"We have a very dedicated crew," said production manager Hillary Matlin '06. "They're amazing."
She said that there were staffing difficulties due to the large number of people studying abroad, but that people were willing to help outside of their prescribed roles.
Stage manager Rachael Leahy '07, emphasized the many people that put time into the production. Leahy was also the stage manager for Masque and Gown's fall show, She Stoops to Conquer. "This show is a lot of fun," she said.
Ten Little Indians is performed on an elaborate single set. Matlin explained that this is the first time in seven years that Masque and Gown has had an interior set in Pickard. She cited the set as "an additional perk to the job."
"It's fun to work in Pickard," said Leahy. "It's a whole different feel in such a large theater and not a black box. It's technically challenging."
"It's really interesting and challenging because to create suspense you have to convey your character in a specific way to the audience," said Keirnan Willett '04, who plays the butler Thomas Rogers.
"In a mystery, you have to work well with other characters to create suspense. Nuances become important not only to yourself but to the play as a whole."
Brady Kirchberg '05, who plays Judge Wargrave, said he enjoys the ensemble aspect of the play, which "follows everyone's stories." He said that the greatest challenge has been not giving away too much-"Because we know who did it."
Matlin said the department has performed a variety of genres recently and "this seemed to fit what's going on in the theater." She added, "[Ten Little Indians] is sort of dramatic and sort of comedic but with a different direction. Murder mystery is a campy sort of genre. It's really fun. This will change things up a little bit."
"It's exciting right up to the last moment," Kirchberg said.
"It's a classic whodunit. It leaves you guessing till the end," said Berman. "It's an overall fun play. I think it's an enjoyable way to start out the night because it's short-under two hours." However, Berman cautions audiences, "If you think you know Ten Little Indians, you haven't seen Noah Berman's twist on it."
Did the butler do it?
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