By Thom deMartino/Orange County Tribune
How capricious the whims of fate, how lacking in equilibrium, symmetry! If only justice had a sense of rhythm, of poetry – or, perhaps … of blackest irony?
Fate gets some devious (and deadly) assistance from an mysterious – unknown, even — accomplice in Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”, the newest production from the award-winning Westminister Community Playhouse.
Directed by Stephen Gomer, “None” brings together a disparate group of unusual suspects: each invited to the strange and remote Soldier Island under false pretenses, each bearing their own dark secret.
The guests range from the revered to the reckless: from seasoned generals and judges, such as General Mackenzie (Mike Marmont) and Sir Lawrence Wargrave (David Carl Golbeck), to the charming (if chauvinistic) Philip Lombard (Jason Cook) and irresponsible automobile enthusiast Anthony Marston (Dante Velez). There’s the fretful butler Mr. Rogers (Chris Coleman) and cook Mrs. Rogers (Stacy Castiglione); the nervous teetotaler Dr. Armstrong (J.D. Rinde) and the dour, pious Ms. Emily Brent (Joanne Fawley); and rounded out by secretary and governess-at-large Vera Claythorne (Amber Toomey) and the shifty Mr. Davis (Paul Burt).
It is only after their ferryman Fred Narracott (Dalton Carp) casts off from the island that the group realize something is seriously amiss: not only are their hosts absent from their own event, but the discomforting poem above the mantle that foretells the end of the ten little soldiers seems strangely menacing … even more so when those same misfortunes begin befalling the guests, one by one.
Time is running out for the group, literally and figuratively, as they race to figure out who’s next – but who can be sure, when the bloodied hands of a killer can only belong to one of their own?
It’s that time of the year, when the Westminister Community Playhouse stages a classic and beloved production: “And Then There Were None” is a perfect example, as the dark Agatha Christie mystery keeps the audience on the edge of their seats as they try and guess the identity of the true culprit – there’s even a chance for the audience to bring their sleuthing skills to bear during intermission, as they submit their guesses as to who is the true malefactor!
And while regular patrons will recognize a few familiar faces from previous productions, such as Rinde as Dr. Armstrong, Toomey as Claythorne and Cook as Lombard – all strong, colorful and engrossing performances, particularly the cool chemistry between Lombard and Claythorne – there are a number of new additions to the WCP family.
Cast members including Carp, Castiglione, Fawley, Golbeck and Velez, as well as director Stephen Gomer provide standout freshman performances at the popular community theater, and one expects to see more excellent work from them in the future. There’s a gentle familiarity by Castiglione and Coleman in the Rogers’ interaction, in contrast to the darkness of the tale; Golbeck provides a subtle and nuanced performance as Wargrave, with the seasoned jurist serving as the voice of reason to the rapidly unravelling group, providing needed direction to the inquiry; and Fawley’s Brent is a troubling and all-too-familiar model of self-assured propriety – never mind her utter lack of empathy when it comes to those she judges as impure and godless.
Other standouts include Marmont’s General Mackenzie – haunted by his sins, and seemingly starting to descend into dementia as the dominoes – that is, the “soldiers” – begin falling faster and faster; and Burt’s Davis/Blore, initially a blowhard, shows an all-too-human fear behind all his bluster and deception, turning what could have been a two-dimensional character into a fully realized, flawed (if vaguely empathetic) individual.
A brilliant piece of mystery fiction brought to the stage by the skillful talents of the cast and crew, “And Then There Were None” is a must-see for Agatha Christie fans, want-to-be amateur sleuths, and all theatergoers who enjoy untangling the threads of an enticing and engrossing enigma.
“And Then There Were None,” Amber Toomey, Jason Cook and David Carl Golbeck star in this classic whodunit of dark, poetic justice. Now playing through Oct. 2 at the Westminister Community Playhouse, 7272 Maple St, Westminster, CA 92683. Ticketing information available online at http://www.wcpstage.com, or call 714-893-8626.
Categories: Arts & Leisure