By Sasha Schechter
Wilder Main was the home to And Then There Were None, based off of the Agatha Christie novel, Ten Little Indians, produced by the Oberlin Student Theater Association and directed by Patrick Webster ‘12.
The play follows 10 men and women who are, at one point or another, convicted of murder. One by one, the characters are killed off according to the rhyme Ten Little Indians written on the wall of the mansion where they all have been invited to stay by a mysterious – and fictional – Mr. Owens.
Webster admits that he edited the script quite a bit to produce a mash-up of Agatha Christie’s original stage adaptation from the 1940’s and Kevin Elyot’s recent 2005 adaptation, with a bit of the original novel’s story sprinkled in every now and then. While this splicing left the audience a bit confused and longing for more information at the end, the play was still a fun whodunit that was easy to get emotionally invested in.
This was mainly due to the talented cast. At times, the acting seemed unpolished and awkward, showing that the script had been altered to allow cross-gendered casting and manipulation of the plot. Nonetheless, the group of talented actors knew how to work with what they were given.
In particular, Ellie Philips stood out: she quite wonderfully portrayed Vera Claythorne, an ex-governess turned secretary with a Hollywood vibe. From the way she articulated the script’s old-fashioned sayings to the way she sauntered across the stage elegantly in high heels, Philips brought a unique life to Claythorne that made her attractive to the audience and her fellow characters alike.
Another standout was Nick Parlato, who often played opposite Philips as Philip Lombard, the snarky flirt. Parlato fell easily into the role and genuinely portrayed the emotions demanded of his character. Parlato and Philips created a chemistry together that was undeniably strong and added a wonderful ambiance to the play as a whole.
Freshman Samantha Bergman was also impressive; Bergman used stunning physical actions to create the Bible-loving elderly woman named Emily Brent. The makeup used to age Bergman was rather harsh for the intimate seating arrangement of the venue, but she managed to make the audience forget about her bold makeup and young complexion. Bergman convincingly portrayed a cantankerous woman of faith from the second she stepped on stage.
The only part of the play that left me cold was the set design. It looked messy and unfinished: the Ten Little Indians rhyme was hastily scrawled on flimsy wall, which also held one out-of-place framed painting. There was a slightly crooked mantelpiece that had no fireplace to go with it, and the entire set was devoid of color save for the furniture.
While the scenery left quite a lot to be desired, the blocking gave the show location and real grounding. Webster did a fantastic job of placing the audience in the mansion with the characters through his blocking choices: there were clear pathways to guest rooms, the kitchen, and only one entrance and exit to the mansion. This allowed the audience to feel secure and therefore have fun speculating the characters’ locations amidst the natural chaos of the plot.
Overall, the audience forgave the production for leaving them a bit confused by the omission a whodunit. I did look up other versions of the play to ease my own curiosity: the original stage adaptation reveals that Justice Lawrence Wargrave, played quite cunningly by Philip Waller, was the mastermind behind all of the murders in the mansion. Regardless, the play turned out to be a successful thriller that proved itself worthy of an audience’s critical thinking and a round of applause.