None Proves Fun At Rivertown

Friday March 09, 07
by David Cuthbert, Times-Picayune Lagniappe

Really, one wouldn't have thought it possible, but Agatha Christie's creaky, sneaky thriller "And Then There Were None" proves quite entertaining at Rivertown Repertory Theatre in Kenner.

Director Gary Rucker correctly calls it a "warhorse" and while he hasn't gotten the old nag to gallop, it does trot along at rather a nice clip.

Mind you, it's not exactly "wizard," as the most objectionable character keeps saying. But in the words of Noel Coward, it's "a little bit of all right."

Ten strangers are summoned to a party at a remote British island estate. A phonograph record (remember those?) is played, announcing that each character is guilty of murder and has been summoned to receive their just desserts. And we're not talking trifle, lovey.

The dialogue says it all:

"Something peculiar is going on here."

"We've been invited here by a madman -- probably a dangerous homicidal lunatic!"

"My God, he's dead!"

"Ghastly! The whole thing!"

The action consists of every cliche in the book: There's a dark and stormy night, the lights go out, a gunshot is heard. And there are several good laughs, as when a doctor is asked after yet another character is discovered dead, "Heart failure?"

"Well," the physician says, "her heart certainly failed to beat."

The nursery rhyme that predicts the method of death for each is now "Ten Little Soldier Boys," a substitute for the two ethnic groups that came before. The script even boasts a touching monologue, acted admirably by Reggie Hendry Jr., as a doddering old general, who tells why he sent one of his soldiers to certain death and is now calmly awaiting his own.

Other standouts in the cast are Michael Cahill as a jittery doctor; Linda Hubchen's pitiless religious fanatic; L. Jeffrey Martorell as a habitual liar; Jackson Townsend's plummily accented jurist; and Michael Aaron Santos as a dashing adventurer who sounds like Cary Grant. Ashley Ricord is the plucky secretary who looks lovely in a slinky gown. The cast is completed by Roland "Butch" Caire's stiff-upper-lip butler; Kathy Taafe as his wife, an apprehensive cook; J. Michael Tramontin's callous bounder; director Rucker in a Cockney bit; and Stocker Fontelieu as the voice of "Unknown."

The set, by Chad Talkington and Chris Ward, is a serviceable British drawing room, and Caire's music gives us scene-ending "stingers" and a playful Margaret Rutherford-Miss Marple-type theme.

There were a couple of surprised gasps from the full house that indicated that as far as Christie's most famous play is concerned, there's a dance in the old dame yet.

 Review, photograph (Santos, Cahill).