By FRANK PHILLIPS
"Ten Little Indians" is a treat for mystery fans. I am not a devotee of Agatha Christie, the author of this engaging whodunit, but the play is a charming brain teaser.
I guessed wrong; the character I thought responsible for the bodies piled up like so much cord wood in the study proved to be innocent.
It is set in the romantic 1930s, on an island off the coast of Massachusetts.
Eight guests and two servants are gathered at the invitation of a lady named "Owen." They all received invitations from someone known only as U. N. Owen, a lady who is not present to greet her guests.
This is a cracker jack story. It has murders, 10 people gathered in a mansion on an island from which there is no escape. It even has a dark and stormy night, a device writers are supposed to avoid, but masterful in the hands of Agatha Christie.
This is a top-notch cast; it would have to be such to perform this story. One moment out of character would ruin the show. But their portrayals successfully make the audience suspend reality and get drawn into the on stage living room. One suggestion: the cast should slow down the dialogue in the opening scene. It seems to be due to nervousness, but the opening lines were difficult to catch. Quickly, though, the cast found their rhythm and the speeches were easily understood by this member of the audience.
The cast includes: Nina Edgerton as the stunning, redheaded secretary, Vera Claythorne; Lew Hackleman, a former Indiana State professor who plays General MacKenzie. Watch for a profile of Mr. Hackleman in upcoming edition of The Brazil Times this week Michael Haws as Dr. Armstrong; Nicholas Horton as Anthony Marston; Carrie S. Neal as Mrs. Rogers, the cook and housekeeper; Gene Raye Price as Emily Brent. Watch for her on the CBS miniseries, "Comanche Moon," in February. Whit Reichert as Justice Lawrence Wargrave; David Schmittou as Philip Lombard; J. R. Stuart as Rogers; and Jeff Stockberger as William Blore. Jeff has gained a following (and many laughs) for his comedic roles in "A Beef & Boards Christmas," "South Pacific," "Crazy For You," "Peter Pan" and "Anything Goes."
The production is directed by ISU alumnus Eddie Curry, who for the first time since graduation has been reunited with his former teacher, Lew Hackleman.
This is a ensemble production. There is not just one star, one lead. The cast is killed off one by one and some are on stage for only a short time.
"This is a great cast," Hackleman told me after the show Friday. "These people are so talented and we are a family."
There is something special about watching a mystery acted out live on stage. There is a quality you simply cannot experience in front of the TV set.
"Ten Little Indians" is on stage at Beef & Boards Tuesdays through Sundays, through Feb. 11.
For more information or to purchase tickets, call (317) 872-9664, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.
On the Net:
Beef & Boards: http://www.beefandboards.com