Ten little Soldier Boys went out to dine / One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Last night, we went to see Agatha Christie’s play “And Then There Were None” at the Repertory East Playhouse in Saugus. “And Then There Were None” is Agatha Christie’s best-selling novel with 100 million sales to date. It has also been published under the title “Ten Little Niggers” and “Ten Little Indians”; the latter was the original title for this production in the 2007 season announcement.

And Then There Were None” is a murder mystery based around the following childhood poem:

Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Soldier boys traveling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Soldier boys going in for law;
One got into Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Soldier boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Soldier boys playing with a gun;
One shot the other and then there was One.
One little Soldier boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

Ten apparent strangers are all brought together at an inn on an isolated island off the coast of Devon; the island has no phones, no communications, no way to get off except for the morning boat. They are the only people on the island. We later learn that all have been involved with a death for which they didn’t claim responsibility. Then they all start being killed, one by one, in the manner of the poem. Who is the killer? You can find more details on the plot at Wikipedia; I don’t want to spoil it here.

Rep East did a reasonable job with the play. As this is an old story, the director (Mikee Schwinn) makes some tweaks to update it: he added in a reference to a cell phone and no service (this being the equivalent of making something modern, in the same way that wrapping something in burlap makes something renaissance); he made the origins of the people more diverse; he had the introductory accusations on a CD; and he had the General’s war experience be Vietnam instead of WWI. For the most part, these worked, although some were a little jarring.

The cast worked well together, although there were a larger number of line-pauses and flubs than we usual see. I’ll attribute that to Thanksgiving :-). It was the usual mix of REP Players and new folks, some stronger than others. I felt the best players some of the regulars, although one newcomer I liked quite a bit. The regulars of note were Bill Quinn as Judge Wargrave and Daniel Lenchæ as Dr. Edward Armstrong; the newcomer was Leila Zia () as Vera Claythorne. All gave strong performances and were a delight to watch. Other actors in significant roles were Tony Cicchetti (William Henry Blore); Nolan LeGault (Cpt. Phillip Lombard) and Adrian Iles (Thomas Rogers). They were good, but not as strong as Quinn, Lench, and Zia. Others in the cast were Marla Khayat (Miss Emily Brent), Ron Karl (General McKenzie), Donna Marie Sergi (Ethel Rogers), Travis Beatyæ () (Anthony Marston), and Steven “Nanook” Burkholder.
[æ denotes members of æ Actors Equity ]

Turning to the technical. The stage design by Adam Williams was quite nice, including a rain fall (with seemingly real water) in the back. The lighting by Tim Christianson was very effective in setting the mood. The sound design, as it should be, was unnoticable and clear, thanks to the work of “Nanook”. Mikee was assisted in his directing by Melanie Gilpin. Mikee’s brother, Johnny Schwinn, served as stage manager. Rep East is under the artistic direction of Ovington Michael Owston.

And Then There Were None” continues at Rep East until December 13th.

While we were at Rep East, we renewed our Season Tickets for 2009. We have a “Flex Pass”, which allows us to see any five of their eight shows (we do the main stage season, not the 81 shows). The 2009 Main Stage Season at Rep East is: “A Streetcar Named Desire”; “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “The Wedding Singer: The Musical Comedy” (Los Angeles Premier), “M*A*S*H”, and “Sherlock Holmes’ The Hound of the Baskervilles”. The 81 Series is “Eve-olution”, “Fat Pig”, and “Beyond Therapy”. Do remember that theatre makes a great gift, supports local business and people, and doesn’t add to the clutter in the house.

Dining Notes: As we drove up to Santa Clarita for dinner, we were planning on hitting one of our favorites, Don Cuco. But the line was out the door, and we had limited time. So we went next door to Love Sushi and Roll. We’ll be back — they were able to get us out quickly (even though they were crowded), their sushi was good, plentiful, and reasonably priced, and their hot dishes were quite good. We’re adding this to our Santa Clarita dining list.

Future Theatre: As for us, next week (December 4th, 5th, and 6th) brings “Scapino” at Van Nuys High School (with nsshere doing the lighting board on Friday, and coordinating things backstage the other days). Although I won’t be there, the following weekend brings the winter show at Nobel Middle School. Saturday December 20th we’ll be seeing “The Life” at the Steller Adler Theatre. I had hoped to see “I Love My Wife (Reprise), but it looks like the dates won’t work out. January 17th brings “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” at Cabrillo Music Theatre. January will also likely bring “A Streetcar Named Desire” at Rep East, and “Minsky’s at the Ahmanson, although neither are ticketed yet. February 21 is “Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Musical” at the Pasadena Playhouse. I’m sure more will join the 1Q09 list as a peruse Goldstar Events, a wonderful way to find half-price tickets.