Gateway ends season with uneven production
take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.”
You also have the latest presentation from Gateway Players. The company’s final play is a stage adaptation of the Agatha Christie murder mystery And Then There Were None, recognized as the bestselling mystery of all time. Alternately, it has been titled Ten Little Indians or Ten Little Soldiers.
The story begins with eight people arriving at a guesthouse on an island off the coast of England. Joined by the home’s recently hired butler and cook, they all wonder why they’ve been invited to the mansion. The 10 characters soon find out it’s to answer to crimes the home’s owner is accusing them of.
Then one suddenly dies and the guests realize their host’s motive is revenge and, ultimately, murder. As more guests suffer similar fates, the survivors face their own guilt and fears.
It’s a good story with opportunities to view interesting character studies and some members of the large cast do just that. Most astounding was Paul Hack, an actor in his 80s who shone as Gen. MacKenzie. The audience was captivated as his guilt drove him insane, then relished every word of his confession scene.
At the opposite end of the age spectrum is Nathan Yaworski, playing the foppish Marston, the night’s first victim. Already a veteran of the stage, Yaworski’s presence and reactions, especially when he wasn’t speaking, showed his professionalism.
Michael Diakuw (Blore) and Eileen MacKenzie (Dr. Armstrong) also turned in solid performances. Having to play the first act superficially because his character was “in disguise,” Diakuw’s real detective character surfaced in Act II. His nervousness cemented the entire act. MacKenzie’s was the most believable character — whether it was her British accent or knowledge of medical terms, she delivered her lines with ease.
Roger Heard (Wargrave) and Zachary Carter (Lombard) both had their moments to shine but often their lines were lost — it’s always unfortunate when key dramatic statements are missed. Meanwhile, it often felt like Miranda Wong (Vera Claythorne) and Joan Sutherland (Emily Brent) were just reciting lines — their characters never came to life.
Directors George and Shirley Haines created some good tableaus. One came just after a death, when all five characters on stage sat silently, eyeing each other suspiciously. Another example of good direction was a scene where the action took place entirely off stage. Though the audience saw no actors for several moments, the urgency of the scene was clearly felt.
However, there were problems with pacing, especially in the first act. The play’s suspense would have been better highlighted had the scenes of guests arriving been performed quicker, capturing the hectic nature of a busy household. This would have given better contrast to the dramatic end of the act when the mystery is revealed.
As usual, we were given another great period set, thanks to the design and creation of George Haines, Al Ritchie and Zenon Sadoway. Large windows were especially useful to convey an outside thunderstorm, aided by great lightning effects and a howling wind.
But the good staging and any good pacing created were lost during some slow scene changes, especially toward the chilling climax of the play. Too often, the audience was left staring at an empty stage when it was anxious to see the plot unravel.
In the end, there were several memorable moments that helped lift the production but one can’t help wonder how much better it could have been with a little more polish. Gateway is very capable of delivering such fine productions.
And Then There Was None plays tonight through Saturday in Robert Hinitt Castle Theatre at Aden Bowman Collegiate. Showtime is 8 p.m.