December 19, 2014

Medina
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Theater group takes on a Christie classic

MEDINA — As autumn winds begin to rattle through brittle leaves and the moon rises like a cold silver dollar in the darkening sky, curling up with a good murder mystery and a cup of hot tea can keep the chill at bay.

That goes for a night at the theater, too — minus the tea — and the Medina Show Biz Company production of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” offers an evening of clues and clever characters to drink up.

The curtain rises at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, 23 and 24 and 2 p.m. Oct.
18 and 25 at Broadway Street Hall, Medina County Administration Building, 144 N. Broadway.

med-a1clr4colplay-copy Cast members Steve Ryan and Amanda Clements of “And Then There Were None,” a murder mystery being presented by the Medina Show Biz Company, go through their paces Sept. 29 at St. Matthew Lutheran Church. (Judy A. Totts/Gazette)

Sandi Harris, production coordinator, said there were several theories about the title morphing from Christie’s original “Ten Little Indians” to “And Then There Were None,” ranging from being more politically correct to a name change instituted by a new publishing company taking over the rights, “but no one seems to know for sure,” Harris said.

What she did know was the cast had embraced the play’s action, which brings eight people together in a manor house on an island at the invitation of an unknown nemesis. As the plot unfolds, a mysterious recording proclaims each guest is guilty of murder — and each must pay for the crime.

Regardless of the title, the story has remained fresh. Its characters are being brought to life by a cast under the direction of 30-year theater veteran Frank Lucas, who works with professional and community groups.

To encourage the cast to fully experience their characters and develop depth of performance, Lucas suggested they study specific actors starring in films set in the 1940s, like Alec Guinness in “Bridge on the River Kwai” as well as the likes of Bette Davis and Maggie Smith, to see how they approached their roles.

“Instead of describing all the layers, this gives them the opportunity to see it,” Lucas said. “I want them to see the attitude Guinness brought
to the stuffy, British major general, Charles Laughton’s pompousness.
This play won’t work unless you believe these are real people. You watch the movies, study the actors, emulate them. It’s a useful tool.”

“I’ve never played a manservant before,” said Charlie Richards, who portrays Mr. Rogers, a “parlor man, deft, specious and shifty. I’m used to playing more boisterous parts.” Lucas assigned Alan Hale Sr. as Richards’ role model.

They abandoned British accents, opting for a more natural tone rather than a motley mix of lingo as the rehearsals continued.

Lucas, who directed “The Boys Next Door” for Show Biz about two years ago, said the greatest challenge in putting on a murder mystery is to keep the audience guessing.

“The play is structured in such a way that the clues are there, but the actors have to be careful not to send a signal to the audience too soon,” he said. “This is a very intricate production. Preparation goes way beyond directing the play, making sure everyone knows their lines, the blocking.”

Harris said the director goes through the play two pages at a time, picking apart each nuance, each movement, each inflection to draw as much as possible out of the cast and milk the most out of the dialogue.

Lucas said he thought the actors have come together strongly as a unit.

“This is a good cast; they’re tying all the pieces together,” he said.

Tickets are $14 for adults and $11 for seniors and students, and are available at Buehler’s locations, by phone or at the door. For information, call (330) 722-5776 or go to www.medinashow
biz.com.