Mike Yocum (L) is Sr. Lawrence Wargrave and Javier Ferreira is William Blore in Wagon Wheel’s production of ‘And Then There Were None.’ Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
Mike Yocum (L) is Sr. Lawrence Wargrave and Javier Ferreira is William Blore in Wagon Wheel’s production of ‘And Then There Were None.’ Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union.
I know who the murderer is in Wagon Wheel Theatre’s production of “And Then There Were None,” but I’m not going to tell you.
Na na na na na na!
Of course, keeping aspects of the show a secret also makes it that much harder to write a review of it. But, the Agatha Christie play is definitely the must-see show of the summer season.
Before I get into how brilliant the cast is in their performances, the hat must be tipped to directors Andy Robinson and Ben Dicke. Their personal touches are written all over this show, especially the actors’ final bows at the end. Those alone are worth seeing the show – but alas another secret I’m not telling you about.
Two of the most well-done plays at the Wagon Wheel in my estimation were “The Importance of Being Earnest” in 2010 and “Brighton Beach Memoirs” in 2009, both directed by Dicke and Robinson. After opening night Wednesday, “And Then There Were None” just got added to the list.
The setting is a living room of a house on Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon England. When the living room is first seen, there are sheets over the furniture and everything is tidy as if it’s been asleep for awhile.
The show features only a small cast, but the actors are some of the best of this season. Since the characters die off one by one, I won’t tell you who is the lead or isn’t as that would give you too much of a hint.
However, the first actor to enter is Jennifer Dow as Mrs. Rogers, the maid for the mysterious Mr. and Mrs. Owen. She’s joined by the delivery boy, Fred Narracott (Lucas Thomas), and her husband, Mr. Rogers (Kyle Timson). They start setting up the story right away, so I recommend paying attention to everything said or done from the start.
Dow is at her best when she gets to do comedic roles, but she can hold her own in shows like “None,” too. She’s also become known for her amazing wigs for the theater, too; and working with costumer Stephen R. Hollenbeck, they really transport the time period of this show to the 1940s. Kira Lace Hawkins, as Vera Claythorne, really articulates the time period with the dresses and hair in this  play – it’s very glamorous and refined. I can’t gush enough about Dow’s and Hollenbeck’s work very beautifully illustrated by Hawkins.
Speaking of Claythorne, she was hired to be the secretary for Mrs. Owens. Right away, Claythorne takes charge of running the house and meeting all the other guests as they arrive. She’s very business-like and straightforward, but like all the other characters in the show, she has a secret.
At the start of this season, Hawkins nailed the role of Mary Poppins in that musical. She again is the brightest start on the Wagon Wheel stage for “None” during the time she’s on it, but does she last to the end? Hmmm ...
Vera is introduced in the play simultaneously with Philip Lombard, played by the devilish Matthew Janisse. Throughout “None,” Lombard comes across as having the most fun of anyone while everyone is dying left and right. Is he the murderer? What does he know?
I thoroughly enjoy watching Janisse act. He really gets into his character and brings him to life. (Janisse is also the kind of guy you’d have a beer with and enjoy hanging out with at a local brewery.) His performance as Lombard is strong and makes it seem like the role of Lombard was written with Janisse in mind.
Jeremy Seiner was brilliant as Frank Abagnale Jr. in this summer’s production of “Catch Me If You Can.” He again steps up in his role of Anthony Marston in “None.” Seiner looks like a young Justin Timberlake, and his costume adds to that look, but his interesting accent and mannerisms on stage really flesh out his character. As played by Seiner, I would say Marston is an arrogant, self-centered preppy young man who doesn’t care how his decisions affect the lives of others. As nice of a guy as Seiner is in person, he’ll make you hope that Marston dies a horrible death in “None” – but does he?
On the island, there is a cop (William Blore), a judge (Sr. Lawrence Wargrave) and a general (General MacKenzie). All three actors playing in  those roles – Javier Ferreira, Mike Yocum and Dan Smith, respectively – give some of their best performances that I have seen.
I thought that Ferreira was awesome in “Catch Me As You Can” earlier this summer, but he surpasses that performance in “And Then There Were None.” Ferreira really stretches his acting skills and delivers an award-worthy performance. While he can do musicals, his acting ability may be far greater if “None” is any indication. He just really gets into his role with a lot of machismo.
Yocum has appeared on the Wagon Wheel stage in more shows than I’ve seen and that’s quite a bit. Yet of all the shows I’ve seen Yocum in, his performance as Wargrave could be the one to remember him for until his next great showcase. Yocum is a very fine character actor, but he seems to give a little more in “None.”
Last seen as Motel in “Fiddler on the Roof,” Smith has to play an old, perhaps senile man as MacKenzie in this play. Though I know Smith is in his early twenties, he comes across very believable as an old man and you end up having a lot of sympathy for the General. But should you?
Kristin Yasenchak has played some very “loud” roles this summer, and as Emily Brent in this murder mystery that continues. But Yasenchak is so good at her job you’ll hate Brent very much. Yasenchak has fire in her soul and that fire burns the stage up around her. With Yasenchak playing her, Brent’s got to have a killer bone in her body, right?
Finally, Scott Fuss plays Dr. Armstrong. Fuss looks and acts like the doctor type – so well in fact there’s plenty of reason for you to believe he may be the murderer.
Due to all the actors’ performances and the solid direction for this play, any of the characters could be the villains, though you get so invested in them you don’t want any of them to die off too early.
Here’s some tips to help you watch this play and figure out who the murderer is: Don’t read anything about the play or the book it was based on before seeing it. Pay attention to everything from beginning to end. Read page 25 of the program.
My rating of the show (out of 4): 4.
Tickets range from $15 to $34. Discounts are available for college students and seniors on designated performances. For more information or to purchase your tickets, visit www.wagonwheeltheatre.org or call the box office at 574-267-8041.