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Stray Dog Theatre kicks off their 12th season with Agatha Christie's masterful whodunit, And Then There Were None. First written as a mystery novel – published in 1939 – Christie adapted the novel for the stage in 1943. The original US production called, Ten Little Indians, was renamed And Then There Were None referring the last line in the famous children's rhyme.

 

Ten strangers are lured to a remote island under false pretenses by a “Mr. and Mrs. Owen”. Each reason seems legit enough (ie. offers of employment, reuniting with old friends, a late Summer vacation) but once assembled, the real reason they have all been invited is revealed.

 

Each one is responsible for murder – in their own way.

 

How they are responsible is revealed in a recording from “Mr. Owen” and they learn that they are going to have to pay for their transgressions. Trapped on the island, the guests are offed one by one until there are none. Did I ruin the ending? No. The true drama of the story is trying to figure out who is responsible for the guests being murdered.

 

The characters are all colorful and instantly fascinating. There is the cook, Mrs. Ethel Rodgers (Lindsay Gingrich) and her husband the butler, Mr. Thomas Rodgers (Jason Meyers).

 

Then we meet Vera Claythorne (Sarajane Alverson) who is a secretary hired by “Mrs. Owen.” She arrives with soldier, Philip Lombard (Jeff Kargus). We then meet Anthony Marston (Ryan Wiechmann) who is a brash young man who has a very “devil may care” type of attitude. agatha

 

Next comes William Henry Blore (Michael Juncal) who originally goes by “Mr. Davis” but the jig is up when the recording outs his true identity.

 

General Mackenzie (David K. Gibbs) enters the house next accompanying Emily Caroline Bent (Judy E. Yordon) who is a religious, older lady who likes to hold people up to her own personal moral standards.

 

Rounding out the cast of characters is Sir Lawrence John Wargrave (Zachary Stefaniak), a retired judge who was known for his liberal use of the death penalty and Edward George Armstrong (Mark Abels) who is a physician and a recovering alcoholic.

 

I felt it was necessary to introduce each of the main characters as this is truly an ensemble cast and each character contributes to the story equally.

 

I will get to the performances, but first things first - I must comment about the set. Congratulations to Scenic Designer Rob Lippert, and Scenic Artists Gary Karasek and Melanie Kozak for creating a gorgeous stage. With crisp lines and no detail left unattended, I was transported to another world. From the fabulous fireplace to the amazing furniture (thanks in part to T.F.A The Future Antiques) the entire set is magnificent.

 

Where do I start with this talented cast? With several excellent performances I suppose I should start at the beginning.

 

Gingrich – in the role of Ethel – was delicious. I was enchanted by her stage presence. She has this natural grace that gave her role an air of distinction.

 

The last time I saw Meyers was in the workshop for Four Sugars. His unique, nervous delivery served him well in that show as it does in this one. Meyers has stage charisma that makes me take notice of him each time he hits the stage.

 

Talking about stage charisma, Alverson has it in spades. While I suspect she is naturally a comedic actress, her sexy side is showcased in her performance as Vera. Alverson is a multidimensional actress who knows how to play up the subtleties of her role as well as turn on the star power when needed. To put it in a nutshell, she is a joy to watch.

 

I was very impressed with Kargus as Philip. His performance was powerful and commanding. Reading his biography I was surprised to see that this actor is just starting his career in St. Louis as I thought his performance was that of a seasoned professional. This man has a very bright future in St. Louis theater and is one to watch.

 

Equally impressive is Juncal as William. Juncal combined his fabulous comedic timing with a heartfelt delivery that I enjoyed thoroughly. His performance was engaging from start to finish.

 

I don't know exactly why, but when Yordon came on stage as Emily, I gay gasped. She just has this presence that I found enthralling. The fact that she can wield a handkerchief with the same determination as a bull fighter with a cape made me fall madly in love with her performance.

 

Rounding out the top performances is Stefaniak as Sir Lawrence. I had the same reaction to him in this production as I did when he was in Stray Dog's production of Love! Valour! Compassion! – he grew on me. I didn't quite get all of the nuances of his performance until the end of the show, but when I looked back on his performance as a whole I was blown away. I find Stefaniak compelling and look forward to seeing him in many productions in the future.

 

Special mention goes to costume designer, Eileen Engel. While all the men looked sharp and meticulous, the way she dressed Alverson was breathtaking.

 

I find director, Gary F. Bell, to be inspiring. This production had to be a task with so many moving parts and plot points that he had to give the necessary time to develop. Bell kept the story moving and kept me captivated throughout all three acts.

 

With all the talent in this production – on and off the stage – this is obviously a must see for any St. Louis theater lover. While I normally use the hashtag of #GoSeeAPlay when I tweet, I am going to tweak it and say #GoSeeThisPlay. I am so glad to see Stray Dog Theatre grow and become a big dog of St. Louis theater.

 

And Then There Were None runs through October 25th. Ticket prices are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors. For more information please visit straydogtheatre.org

 

You can follow me on Twitter @ReviewerJim

 

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