A Tenuous Night of Terror

Ten strangers meet on Soldier Island.  At dinner, a disembodied voice accuses each of murder.  Soon afterwards, the guests begin to die according to a disturbing nursery rhyme.  Real horror sets in when the survivors realize that the killer must be one of them.

This is the plot of Ten Little Indians, currently playing at the Bellevue Little Theatre and based off the novel by Agatha Christie.

Translating a story from one medium to another usually proves to be a difficult chore.  Through the translation, something often gets lost or reimagined to suit the new medium and this difficulty is prevalent in the script for this show.  The novel is deeply psychological, full of tense, internal monologues and shifts all over Soldier Island and its mansion.  The play is, quite literally, a sitting room drama (said sitting room impeccably designed by Joey Lorincz).  The cast is left with the unenviable task of trying to duplicate the same sense of dread and character development without the critical clues the internal monologues provide.  God bless this cast for rising to the challenge.

Standouts in the show include Connie Lee as Emily Brent.  As Brent, Ms. Lee shines as a cold blooded religious zealot.  She utterly disappears into the character with a steely expression and unyielding posture.  Her remorseless nature and snide little asides provided a true delight for the evening.

Jon Flower absolutely nails the role of Phillip Lombard.  He is truly an insufferable ass.  The only member of the party to immediately admit his guilt, Flower magnificently makes Lombard the character you love to hate.  With a practiced ease, Flower imbues Lombard with an oily charm.  When he’s not busy trying to woo Vera Claythorne, he’s snapping out inappropriate comments or improvising new verses of the already creepy nursery rhyme which foretells the deaths of the accused.

Angela Fick is spot on as Vera Claythorne.  Beginning as an affable girl who thinks she has won a position as secretary to the woman of the house, Ms. Fick’s Claythorne is the one character who truly seems to buckle under the ominous threat looming over the guests.  Ms. Fick does an admirable job finding the ebbs and flows in her dialogue that make for a nice nuanced character.  With a character that could easily be overplayed, Ms. Fick manages to find just the right emotional beats at just the right moments to keep Vera grounded in reality.

Paul Schneider’s Sir Lawrence Wargrave is a masterfully underplayed performance.  His Wargrave is almost the glue holding these people together.  Eerily calm and painfully precise, Schneider’s Wargrave stoically examines the evidence and enunciates the points that may lead to a solution to this baffling mystery.

Jim Farmer proved to be a real surprise as William Henry Blore.  At first glance, Farmer seems to be playing Blore extremely over the top until he reveals that he’s putting on a cover and he’s really a detective called in for a job.  After the cover is blown, Farmer is all business.  His Blore is a tough cookie, though not overly bright and constantly concerned about his next meal.  However, Farmer also gives Blore some surprising depth and pathos when he tells the true story about the man he is accused of killing.

A few flaws were evident in the production.  The acting was a little shaky at points, accents were a mixed bag, and vocal projection issues were present.  The blocking also seemed a tad off as performers either upstaged themselves or were placed in such a way that they couldn’t be seen.  The denouement also seemed a touch overacted and may disappoint purists expecting the same ending as in the novel.

Ten Little Indians runs from Jan 24-Feb 9 at Bellevue Little Theatre located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.  Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Reservations can be made at 402-291-1554 between the hours of 10am-4:30pm Mon-Sat.  Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and TAG members, and $9 for students with a valid student ID.