A scene from "And Then There Were None," now showing at The Grand Auditorium in Ellsworth. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS DOUGHERTY

Murder, second to none

ELLSWORTH — It is wonderful that the grand old Grand Auditorium is back in the live theater business, producing its own plays and musicals. It will be even more wonderful as they begin to take on even more challenging productions.

“And Then There Were None,” now being performed at the Grand, is a good example of why these plays, written by Agatha Christie, the world’s best-selling author of all time, still draw audiences.

While the play’s title has changed a few times since Christie wrote it in 1943 – the original is unprintable and the last, impolitic – its colorful crew of characters, and a plot so sneaky that even those who have seen it several times can’t figure out who done it, make for three entertaining acts.

It is directed here by Robin Jones in a somewhat static old style in which actors were discouraged from excessive walking and talking and, rather, delivered important plot developments to the audience like British school boys declaiming Ovid to their Latin masters. The cast Jones has assembled, however, brings plenty of splash and dash to their individual roles.

What we have here are 10 strangers who have been invited for the weekend, on various pretexts, to a remote island by a mysterious host. In short order, these “guests” – all of whom have sketchy pasts – have their stays cut short by murder. And, understandably, the dwindling crew of survivors becomes increasingly suspicious of each other.

Although the attempts at British accents have varied success, we have no trouble identifying who the characters are.

There are the officious butler and his surly wife, a nicely paired Patrick Harris and Zabet NeuCollins; the dithering old military officer, a perfectly pathetic Bob Daisy; the pretty secretary with a past secret, nicely realized by a fetching Nina Robinson Poole; and the young cad portrayed by Patrick Molloy, whose loosey-goosey, slithering about was a comic relief from the prevailing stand-and-deliver style, making his early demise a pity on several levels. We also have the retired judge, a properly pompous Michael Weinstein; the handsome soldier of fortune, a brash and confident Nathaniel Lee; the self-righteous spinster, a deliciously dreadful Annie Poole, one of the few who managed a decent accent; the blowhard detective, Roland Dube, in fine form; and the not-so-good doctor played by Will Stephenson, whose jittery performance amped up with the body count.

While the pace Saturday night seemed a tad slow – and despite some second night prop glitches – the actors ably wove this tale of suspense and suspicion until its startling denouement.

Peter Miller’s art deco set does a fine job evoking an opulent seaside manse, and Elizabeth Braley’s costumes are pitch perfect for the 1940s era – especially Nina Poole’s flattering ensembles. Kudos to props mistress Stacey White for scoring a bearskin rug! There was, however, a curious dearth of blood considering all the homicidal shenanigans going on. Perhaps this was an “old school” choice as well, harkening back to the day when actors expired tidily on stage – even enduring gun shots to the head – without splattering the wallpaper.

This relatively bloodless murder and mayhem continues at The Grand this weekend, March 24-26, with 7 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.

For more information and reservations, call the box office at 667-9500 or visit www.grandonline.org.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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