Lyceum review: Suspenseful Christie classic laced with relief humor

Monday, August 23, 2010

You might think there's nothing particularly funny about a story involving 10 people, accused of murder by a disembodied voice, who get picked off, one by one.

Agatha Christie's classic thriller, "And Then There Were None," is built to be suspenseful as the audience wonders who will die next and tries to work out who really is guilty of the alleged crime and who is innocent.

But in the hands of the Arrow Rock Lyceum cast, the play is both suspenseful and, at times, funny.

The play tells of 10 people marooned in a house on an island, informed by a mysterious voice that each has been deemed guilty of murder. Soon after, one character dies, sending the rest of the group into a growing state of apprehension, suspicion and paranoia.

All it takes is impeccable timing and a talent for just the right gesture, and a laugh gives the audience a brief respite from the story's escalating tension.

Michael McKenzie, who plays the nervous nerve doctor, Dr. Armstrong, was perhaps the best at eliciting laughs during the Saturday night, Aug 21, show. McKenzie has been a delightful addition to the Lyceum crew this summer, bringing an added bounce to every show he's been in, including "My Fair Lady" and "The Man Who Came to Dinner."

Richert Easley, too, as the aging and befuddled General MacKenzie, gets a laugh early on with something as simple as his comparison of a living room chair to his favorite chair at his club.

Other characters are played more straight. Anne Marie Bills' potrayal of the straight-laced Emily Brent is appropriately prim and stern. Given the nature of the crime she's accused of and her response to the accusation, humorous moments might not suit her character as well.

The local connection in this cast is Harold Hynick, who turns in a fine performance as the loyal, even-tempered butler, Rogers. Hynick is an assistant professor of theater at Missouri Valley College.

Contact Eric Crump at ecrump@marshallnews.com

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