Murder mystery chills Whitestone audiences

By Arlene McKanic

The eight hapless houseguests – which come to ten if you add the butler, Mr. Rogers, and his wife, the cook – have been invited for a weekend on Indian Island, in a manor home off the coast of Devon owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Owen. The odd thing is, none of the guests have ever met these people, not even the Rogerses or Mrs. Owen's secretary, the beautiful Vera (Jennifer DiMatteo). When the guests are all gathered in the drawing room, a spooky disembodied voice recounts their sins, both of omission and commission. And they start, one by one, to die. By the way, they don't just die any old way, but according to the poem “Ten Little Indians,” set conveniently in a frame on the mantelpiece near a collection of little Indian figurines. Whenever someone eats it, one of those little figurines disappears, or is smashed, or topples over.Williams paces the story beautifully and keeps the audience, as well as the increasingly frazzled guests, guessing as to who the maniac could be. There are also some genuinely scary moments when the lights go out and the actors have to grope their way around with candles. And the actors are wonderful, including Stephen C. Vincent as Philip Lombard, a military man who finds peacetime dull and carries a convenient revolver everywhere; Keith Junas as the fantastically self-centered Anthony Marston, and Jim Percival as the detective, William Blore. Johnny Dee Damato is a poignant and cracked Gen. MacKenzie, who, after his sins are disclosed, is content to wait for his death sentence. There's Armand Catenaro (who also did the evocative set backdrop) as the hanging judge Sir Lawrence Wargrave, and Peter J. Rowan as Dr. Armstrong. Frank Freeman makes a dour Rogers, who continues with his duty even when faced with calamity, and Suzanne Haehnel is good as his no-nonsense wife. Jonathan Applebaum is a genial and clueless Narracott, the man who brings provisions to the woefully isolated house, and Judy Rosemarin is excellent as the bitter and rigid Emily Brent, whose utter lack of compassion once drove her pregnant serving girl to suicide. DiMatteo, who excels at just about everything the reviewer's seen her in, is marvelous as the smart and sweetnatured Vera. She also looks wonderful in period costumes – it looks like the play is set between the wars, as Lombard doesn't have one to fight at the moment and the memories of World War I are still painfully vivid for the older men.Vincent also designed the set, with its cozy chairs and sofa, red walls and lamps that give a soft glow – when they work. Speaking of lamps, Bill Haas' lighting design is dramatic and appropriately unsettling. The sounds are also direful, whether they be the grumble of a summer storm, howling wind or the plaintive horn of a boat, which seems to never dock on the island and rescue people.As in a lot of mysteries, “And Then There Were None”'s denouement is preposterous – you're sure that the perp couldn't have done what he or she did without having the ability to be in two places at once, or becoming invisible – and the story sometimes succumbs to idiotic plotting. Should not, for instance, the remaining houseguests go in a group to the larder for some of that tinned tongue instead of letting Vera go all by herself? It's irrelevant, though. “And Then There Were None” is delicious, creepy, startling fun – the revolver goes off, loudly, three times, so be warned. It'll be up till April 13. You might even want to see it more than once, just for the clues.If You Go'And Then There Were None': A play by Agatha ChristieWhen: April 11, 8 p.m.; April 12, 3:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; April 13, 5 p.m.Where: First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, 15-43 149 St., WhitestoneCost: Adults, $15; Seniors and children under 13, $13Contact: 718-391-8697

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