A View from the Cliff: Heights Players open diamond season

Celebrating 60 years in Brooklyn, the Heights Players open their diamond anniversary season with Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, “And Then There Were None.”

Using a children’s nursery rhyme, “Ten Little Indians,” as the blueprint, a fiendish murderer systematically eliminates guests on a deserted island. It’s one of Christie’s most clever works with delicious twists and turns, right until the merciless killer is revealed!

At Saturday evening’s performance, director Ed Healy weaves a mysterious web with characters who brandish elegant British accents. They savor their character’s melodramatic stereotypes as they transport us into a wonderful 1930s mindset.

As usual, the intimate theatre places the actors just inches from the audience. Seagulls are heard overhead (Cameron McIntosh, sound design) while an angry sea is visible though the cottage’s French doors (Gary VanderPutten, set design and Paul Keim, scenic design). Lightning flashes brazenly while eerie shapes emerge from the shadows (Leo Contrino, lighting design).

The 10 doomed invitees, victimized by a vengeful voice offstage, seem like children’s board game caricatures who have returned to life. Who will fall first to the assassin’s demonic dangers?

Perhaps the housekeeper, Mrs. Rogers (Melissa Croy) has been targeted. Maybe the butler (Jorge Corona) did it. Is the local boatman (James Martinelli) capable of murder?  The prim, proper and very shapely secretary (Emily Mathis) couldn’t harm a fly…or could she? Well, a certain adventurer played by Matthew Ip Shaw is much too calm while his fellow houseguests are systematically eliminated.  Much too calm indeed! Come to think of it, why is Miss Brent (Constance Cooper) so full of fire and brimstone? Is she a self-appointed executioner?

My personal favorite, exceptionally rotund William Blore (Joe Pacifico), makes no apologies for his voracious appetite and his simplistic solutions to the spate of slayings. More charming candidates for the killer’s crosshairs include Mr. Marston (Michael Navarro), Dr. Armstrong (played by popular community veteran Raymond Wagner), pipe smoking Judge Wargrave (Thomas J. Kane) and likeably senile General Mackenzie (Michael Janove).

Behind the scenes, further support is provided by Martinelli (costume design/assistant director), Corrine Contrino (stage manager) and Jan VanderPutten (props).

This comforting window into the genius of Agatha Christie is still playing at 26 Willow Place in Brooklyn Heights. For information on this and future productions, call 718-237-2752 or surf to www.heightsplayers.org. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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