After a season full of crucial contemporary topics, such as gun laws, censorship and capitalism, the UW Oshkosh theatre department will end its season with Agatha Christie’s murder mystery “And Then There Were None,” running this weekend at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday at the Fredric March Theatre.
Based on Christie’s book, though with minor differences, “And Then There Were None” takes place on an isolated island where guests arrive for a pleasant holiday, but the visit goes downhill when a mysterious voice accuses the guests of certain crimes and people start dying.
Director Jane Purse-Wiedenhoeft said it’s exciting to direct a show where the focus is on the story after doing several shows centered on current social issues.
“As a director, I like to like what I’m directing, and often times there’s some kernel of meaningful information or something that I think we should be doing or saying at a university, but then you get tired of doing that and I want to do something just for fun,” Purse-Wiedenhoeft said.
Purse-Wiedenhoeft said there is, however, an examination of the gray area that surrounds right and wrong.
“When we find out the reasons why these people were selected to come to the island, you realize that people might not always be what they seem, and all these people do have skeletons in their closets,” Purse-Wiedenhoeft said.
Purse-Wiedenhoeft said the play displays how much the standard for what is considered violent has changed in our society.
“Historically, I think it’s very interesting to watch and realize how very jaded we are about murder and violence, that this [play] seems so tamed compared to what we see on TV,” Purse-Wiedenhoeft said.
Purse-Wiedenhoeft said the violence, though, isn’t the focus of the show, but rather the suspense.
“I just hope at intermission I hear people trying to figure out who the murderer is,” Purse-Wiedenhoeft said. “That will be fun hearing them struggle with who the murderer is.”
Garret Johnson, who plays Captain Philip Lombard, said the cast has struck a balance between the murders happening onstage with a sense of humor offstage.
“We, as a cast, have been through quite a bit, and I enjoy working with these people a lot, and I feel as though we all gel and have a certain chemistry with each other,” Johnson said.
Mary-Margaret Clementi, who plays the young secretary Vera Claythorne, joined the cast three weeks into the rehearsal process and said her shortened rehearsal time, though intimidating at first, forced her to dive head-first into her role.
“Since coming [to UWO], 40 has been my youngest character age, and I am not someone who acts like they’re 20, even though I am 20,” Clementi said. “So it’s very difficult to act like a 25-year-old, but it’s good to have variety.”
Parker Sweeney, who plays detective Blore, said the British dialect, which is essential for any Agatha Christie play, has been fun for the cast to learn and explore.
“Overall, nailing the British dialect has been a rather fun challenge,” Sweeney said. “During the course of [my] childhood, my friends and I always goofed around with British dialects to trick people while we played Xbox, so it’s fun to see that doing that had helped.”
Sweeney also said the theatre department’s final show is a good encapsulation of everything he has learned during the season.
“Ultimately, it has helped me stay focused, and I believe during the course of the [rehearsal] process I have grown, especially as I look back at this season and see how much I have progressed,” Sweeney said.
Johnson, too, said “And Then There Were None” has helped him reflect on the growth he has experienced as an actor during the year.
“I think I have grown as a person; I honestly do,” Johnson said. “I think I have grown as a voice of reason and experience.”
Clementi said the play will leave the audience guessing and rooting for their favorite characters to survive.
“I’ve had aunts and uncles say ‘Oh, I love the book,’ but the play is so much better,” Clementi said. “You get to see the characters and become invested in them and you don’t want them to die.”