This weekend and next, Ten Little Indians are destined to die, one by one, in the Reston Community Players' mildly gripping version of Agatha Christie's oft-done play. The play, one of Miss Christie's best, demonstrates her finely honed ability to make hatcheted bodies and poison-filled hypodermics seem rather jolly as well as intriguing, so that even those who already know whodunit want to stay to the end.
All of these deadly developments take place in an English country estate, of course, located on a hard-to-reach, harder-to-escape island. The set, done with RCP's usual lavish care by Maggie Waters, shows the estate's large living room.
All 10 invited guests, rather implausibly, have never met their host, a Mr. U.N. Owen. And all 10, according to a tape recording their unknown host left behind, have committed murders for which they went unpunished.
All 10 are going to die according to a gruesome children's verse left by their genial host over the mantelpiece ("Ten little Indians standing in line; one overslept himself, and then there were nine," etc.).
Oh, how dreadful. The worst thing about it is that, for the first part of the play, the audience isn't quite clear about who all these recently deceased fellows are. Then, just when we've finally deciphered both the name and the character of at least one, off he pops--and we're left with nine more to sort through.
By a stroke of good fortune, Marston (Scott Steele), in the most over-acted role, dies first. Next comes the cook, whose death reduces the remaining guests to tinned tongue for the rest of their lives.
These deaths are followed by the stabbing of the slightly deranged Gen. MacKenzie, played with some skill by Ned Anderson. We're sorry to see him go. The same cannot be said for the next five, although it must be admitted that by then we can at least tell them apart.
That leaves two: Vera Claythorne (Annette Fama), who looks better than she acts, and Phillip Lombard (Dick Harrington), a witty and indefatigable English waster for whom we are all cheering.
Vera shoots him.
Then we hear the chilling voice of the Real Murderer, and Vera, realizing her blunder, is in a pretty pickle.
It's all rather ghastly, and all rather gripping, thanks to the playwright. Unfortunately, the cast is not as intriguing as the play. With the exception of Harrington and Anderson, the players move woodenly through the first act, waiting for the audience to catch up.
But even the actors seem to fall under the spell of the writing, and by the second act, with the bodies piling up, the play really starts to roll. By then it's fun--in a deadly sort of way.
Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians," by the Reston Community Players, Feb. 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 8:30 p.m. in the Reston Community Center at Hunters Woods Plaza. Admission is $4.50 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and children under 12. For ticket reservations and information, call 476-4509.