Ten Little Indians
Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace. By Agatha Christie. Dir. Michael Halberstam. With ensemble cast.
Ahhh, the cozy pleasure of a Christie mystery: It evokes curling up in bed with warm milk, thunder blasting outside, while the comforting, not-exactly-challenging prose lulls you off to a pleasant doze—then throws in enough well-timed thrills to keep you awake and turning the page. Director Halberstam and his sharp cast have placed that little bedtime titillation onstage, to winning effect. Ten guests arrive at a mansion on an isolated island off the English coast. When one of them meets his maker, the others realize not only is the killer taking them out per the children’s rhyme “Ten Little Indians,” but also the killer…is among them.
Fortunately, the cast doesn’t bat knowing winks at us; instead, this sensibly straightforward staging keeps its eyes wide open—and, in the tension-ratcheting second act, ours as well. You have to hand it to Christie, the old dear: She knew her way around murder-mystery structure, which still retains the power to keep us sixth-guessing. Led by the appealing pair Carey Cannon and Timothy Gregory, Halberstam’s well-cast actors (though in dire need of a dialect coach) have a grand time with both scary and funny. They gamely perform the standard thriller devices that (from The Simpsons to Scream) have long since been spoofed to death: like why is that fool leaving the room alone?—or the murderer who, at the end, exhaustively explains every last detail of the scheme. You always know the knife’s coming, but what nice delight to feel it slide in.—Novid Parsi