BWW Review: AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at San Marcos High School

BWW Review: AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at San Marcos High SchoolSan Marcos High School Stages an Agatha Christie Classic
In Santa Barbara, the summer sun seems to shine relentlessly past the opening of autumn. For us sweater-hungry chill seekers, the Performing Arts Department of San Marcos High School presented Agatha Christie's classic cozy mystery And Then There Were None. The drama isolates ten strangers on a remote island as an unseen hand plucks "Ten Little Soldier Boys" off one by one, according to an unsettling nursery rhyme that hangs over the fireplace.
Theodore Michael Dolas' set combined the streamlined elegance of Art Deco with the stately dark-wood furnishings of an English manor. On the far upstage wall, sky-high French doors revealed an empty beachscape, a visual metaphor for the seclusion and helplessness of the ten characters. Marian Azdril's 1940's period costumes distinguished the class and occupations of the assembled guests, which was especially helpful during the exposition when the plot demands that we quickly place each character's background and possible motivations. For the audience's delight in this play comes from trying to solve two puzzles: "who is the murderer" and "how is he or she able to kill people off in front of our very eyes?" The latter question is ripe for dramatic treatment. Director Riley Berris succeeded in pulling off several theatrical slights of hands with her deft staging of the play's shifting red herrings. Especially memorable was the staging of the wind pushing open the French doors at the top of the second act, an eerie harbinger of the drama to unfold.
And Then There Were None is highly aware of its own theatricality: the characters, almost all of whom are guilty of a terrible crime, have been masquerading as guiltless people, hiding in plain sight behind masks of social propriety. The murderer, when revealed, played out his revenge on the assembled party as an author-director, controlling everyone's attention and the flow of information. No doubt, Berris wanted to ground her actors in realistic character motivations and actions, which they successfully conveyed. However, a bit of the stylized fun of And Then It Went Wrong, a spoof of the play being performed after the show, might have given some punch to the arc of this drama. The cast was spot on and line perfect. Chris Carmona was especially convincing as an elderly general stubbornly set in his ways. Lily McWhirter and Kai Kadlec as Vera Claythorne and Philip Lombard kept the action riveting to the final curtain. The audience was clearly thrilled by the drama, instantly coming to their feet in a standing ovation.

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