By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
Agatha Christie's old chestnut of a novel, Ten Little Indians, was a best-seller in in 1939 and was adapted for the stage in 1943. It creaks along under its new, presumably politically-correct title, And Then There Were None on the Walnut Street Theatre's mainstage, providing a mildly amusing evening and a mildly puzzling whodunit. As a murder mystery it has more in common with the board game "Clue" than with "Law and Order."
The premise: ten people, strangers to each other, have been invited to an isolated manor house in the middle of an island for a weekend. A recorded voice intrudes into their drinks party, reciting a list of the murders each of these strangers has secretly committed. Once people start turning up dead, everyone grows suspicious of everyone else.
The boat that brought them to the island has abandoned them, so they're stuck with each other during a dark and stormy night (it's been quite a week for theatrical weather; this was my third dark-and-stormy night in a row what with Macbeth and Baskerville).Like the sound (Christopher Colucci) and lighting (Kendall Smith) effects , director Charles Abbott chose a caricature style for this arch production as part of the fun, along with the melodramatic piano-playing to bridge scene changes.
It's also been a week of dark-and-stormy English accents, where half the complicated motivation and backstory explanations of these murderous strangers in And Then There Were None are lost as the actors PROJECT too loudly in impossible accents (subtitles, anyone? Dialect coach, anyone?).
This is not true of Greg Wood, who brings some subtlety and genuine acting to this stage. The rest of the cast-- Sharon Alexander, Jessica Bedford, Damon Bonetti, Laurent Giroux, John-Charles Kelly, Paul Nolan, Wendy Scharfman, Peter Schmitz, Harry Smith-- all ham it up, clearly having a good time.
What can you say after you say "they don't write 'em like that anymore"? One answer: "thank goodness."
Walnut Street Theatre, 9th & Walnut Sts., Through April 26. Tickets $20-85. Information: 215-574-3550 or WalnutStreetTheatre.org