Balancing the Humor and Drama in Kansas City Actors Theatre “And Then There Were None”

Victor Raider-Wexler at rehearsals for KCAT’s production of “And Then There Were None”

Kansas City Actor’s Theatre is no stranger to the world of Agatha Christie. In 2012 KCAT produced Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” and audiences have asked for more ever since. Now five years later, almost to the day, KCAT is opening their 13th season with perhaps Agatha Christie’s most famous work, “And Then There Were None”.

The play intertwines the lives of ten people, each with their own mysterious past, in a solitary house on Soldier Island off the coast of Britain. House guests are mysteriously killed off one-by-one, leaving it up to the survivors to figure out the mystery before it’s too late.

The script feels like a slamming-door farce at the beginning, with a cast of outrageous characters: A man with a certain way of introducing himself to everyone he meets. Two young guests flirting with each other from the opening. A whole host of suspicious strangers.

With two ferries arriving separately, guests are constantly coming and going. Soon the play shifts into a psychological thriller, forcing these guests into stressful situations and seeing how they react.

The tonal shift in the play presents certain challenges to the actors. Robert Gibby Brand, who plays retired military-man General MacKenzie, explains, “The play is charming and entertaining, but rooted in realism. So, it becomes a question of how far you can push it.”

In agreement, Victor Raider-Wexler, who plays former judge Sir Lawrence Wargrave, says, “The challenges come in presenting the honesty without poking fun at anything.”

Robert Gibby Brand at rehearsal

The tonal shift parallels a main theme of the play: The moral ambiguity that the guests find themselves in. Everyone who is invited to Soldier Island finds themselves accused of committing a crime that they were never charged for. Although never found to be guilty, every guest relies on the moral ambiguity of their actions, and they have been living their lives normally, left only with their memories as consequence.

“The play at its core is about justice; a sort of divine justice that is above the law,” says John Rensenhouse, the play’s director. “There is no escape from this justice, no matter what you do.” It is this sense of impending doom and feeling of no escape that propels this play from its farcical openings into the drama of the final act of the play. With a power-house group of actors, the audience is sure to go from laughing to on the edge of their seats in a matter of minutes.

Buy tickets now to see this gripping cast of characters in Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” starting August 9th and running through the 27th at the H&R Block City Stage in Union Station. Visit www.kcactors.org or call the Central Ticket Office at (816) 235-6222 for more information and tickets.

–Malcolm Gibbs

About The Author: Contributing Writer

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