"If there's one thing I won't stand for, it's murder," deadpans Capt. Philip Lombard (played by Bill
Timoney), a pistol-packing, brandy-snifting "adventurer" in a double-breasted lounging jacket.
That such a character exists — let alone plays it with a relatively straight face — could mean only
one thing: We're in Agatha Christie territory, courtesy of Monmouth University and its current revival
of the classic thriller "And Then There Were None."
The third and final entry in the West Long Branch school's 2006 series of Shadow Lawn Summer Stage
offerings, this engagingly familiar ensemble exercise in Murder Most Foul assembles a considerable
cast of Actor's Equity professionals (and game semipros) for a textbook study in British "old dark
Adapted by Christie from her 1939 novel known also as "Ten Little Indians," "And Then There Were None"
strands eight invitees (including the aforementioned adventurer, his secretary, a judge, a surgeon, a
policeman, a retired general, a pious spinster and a debauched playboy) and two servants in an isolated
mansion that's nestled amid the rocky cliffs of a desolate island. It's a place without a phone, a boat,
or even an apparent owner.
After dispensing with the excruciatingly dull introductions, the play lurches into gear when the
assembled guests are forced to listen to a recording of the mysterious "Mr. Owen," who outlines the
real reason for their being summoned to the estate — each of them is somehow responsible for having
caused the death of some innocent person, and, as becomes immediately evident, each is fated to
perish in a manner conforming to an old nursery rhyme that hangs above the fireplace.
While the early scenes fall victim to the Christie curse of having too many characters sitting
about the sitting room discussing their beastly plight, things really begin to pick up as the
population starts to thin out. By the time the lights go out and the night air is pierced by the
sounds of screams and gunshots, it's entirely possible that this sincerely staged Christie "twister"
will draw you willingly into its coils.
A well-known lighting designer in local stage circles, director George Hansel has particular fun
with the tense, "candlelit" sequences that occur during a coastal storm, some pleasingly suspenseful
interludes that make the most of the university's coolly creepy (and historically haunted)
Lauren K. Woods Theatre. The cast of 11 actors is shuttled on and off stage by any means
available, and Fred Del Guercio's parlor-and-terrace set utilizes the layout of the West Long
Branch playhouse to good advantage.
As for the question of who done it, well, who cares — all assembled are having a spot of
murderous fun on their blood-spattered island getaway. Character ace/voice artist Bill Timoney
and Briana Trautman-Maier (co-star of this summer's "Butterflies Are Free") score as Capt.
Lombard and secretary Vera, with Ed Schiff following up his recent turn in "Da" as the ruddy-faced
General Mackenzie, and Shore stalwart David Volin bringing his patented edge to the role of Judge Wargrave.
Brendan Ryan and Linda Cameron also have accomplished the not inconsiderable feat of
rehearsing and appearing in all three of producer John Burke's Shadow Lawn productions this season.