Nina Robinson-Poole plays Vera Claythorne while Michael Weinstein has the role of Sir Lawrence John Wargrave, a former judge known to be a “hanging judge” in The Grand’s production of Agatha Christie’s mystery “And Then There Were None.” PHOTO BY CHRIS DOUGHERTY

Christie’s thriller lives on in entertaining production



ELLSWORTH — It is wonderful that the grand old Grand Auditorium is back in the live theater business, producing its own plays and musicals. It will be even more wonderful when they choose more challenging works than old Agatha Christie mysteries, which are perhaps more suited to smaller, more intimate venues.

That being said, there is a reason these tried-and-true drawing room murders are still being committed in amateur and professional theaters, every day, around the world.

“And Then There Were None,” now being performed at The Grand, is a good example of why these plays, written by the world’s best-selling author of all time, still draw audiences.

Nathanael Lee (from left) plays a seemingly sinister former soldier Philip Lombard while Nina Robinson-Poole is Vera Claythorne and Roland Dube has the role of detective William Blore in The Grand’s production of Agatha Christie’s mystery “And Then There Were None.”
PHOTO BY CHRIS DOUGHERTY

While the play’s title has changed a few times since Miss Christie wrote it in 1943 — the original is unprintable and the last impolitic— its colorful crew of characters, and a plot so sneaky that even those of us who have seen it several times can’t figure out who done it, make for three entertaining acts.

The Grand production is directed by Robin Jones in a somewhat static, old style — when actors were discouraged from excessive walking and talking and, rather, delivered important plot developments to the audience like British school boys declaiming Ovid to their Latin masters. The cast Mr. Jones has assembled, however, brings plenty of splash and dash to their individual roles.

What we have here are 10 strangers who have been invited for the weekend, on various pretexts, to a remote island by a mysterious host. In short order these “guests”— all of whom have sketchy pasts— have their stay cut short by murder. And, understandably, the dwindling crew of survivors become increasingly suspicious of each other.

Although the actors’ attempts at British accents had varied success, we have no trouble identifying who these characters are.

The officious butler and his surly wife; a nicely paired Patrick Harris and Zabet Neu Collins; the dithering old military officer, a perfectly pathetic Bob Daisy; the pretty secretary with a past secret, nicely realized by a fetching Nina Robinson Poole; the young cad portrayed by Patrick Molloy, whose loosey-goosey, slithering about was a comic relief from the prevailing stand-and-deliver style, making his early demise a pity on several levels; the retired judge, a properly pompous Michael Weinstein; the handsome soldier of fortune, a brash and confident Nathanael Lee; the self-righteous spinster, a deliciously dreadful Annie Poole, one of the few who managed a decent accent; the blowhard detective, Roland Dube, in fine form, and the not-so-good doctor played by Will Stephenson, whose jittery performance amped up with the body count.

While the pace Saturday night could have used a bit of amping up as well — and despite some second night prop glitches — the actors ably wove this tale of suspense and suspicion until its startling denouement.

Peter Miller’s art deco set does a fine job evoking an opulent seaside manse, and Elizabeth Braley’s costumes are pitch perfect for the 1940s era —especially Nina Poole’s flattering ensembles; kudos to props mistress Stacey White for scoring a bear skin rug! There was, however, a curious dearth of blood considering all the homicidal shenanigans going on, but perhaps this was an “old school” choice as well, harkening back to the day when actors expired tidily on stage — even enduring gun shots to the head — without splattering their brains on the wallpaper.

This relatively bloodless murder and mayhem continues at the Grand this weekend, March 24-26 with 7 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.

For more information and reservations or to become a member of The Grand, call the box office at 667-9500 or visit www.grandonline.org.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.