Farmington Players stage Agatha Christie adaptation of ‘And Then There Were None’

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published January 23, 2018

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FARMINGTON HILLS — The bodies will pile up onstage in the Farmington Players’ murder mystery production, “And Then There Were None,” taken from famed author Agatha Christie’s English mystery novel of the same name.

The production — slated to run Feb. 9-25 at the Farmington Players Barn, 32332 W. 12 Mile Road — centers around individuals trapped in an island house after being mysteriously invited to a party by someone, and there’s a killer on the loose in the house.

Producer Tim Timmer said the book-turned-film will make for an interesting stage play because, unlike in the movies, audience members are able to see everything, no zoom feature or tricky camera angles available.

He said it is the director’s job to ensure the audience is kept guessing about “whodunnit.”

“There are a few people that end up dying onstage. … You can’t make it noticeable. It has to be a surprise.”

Timmer added that the characters are “basically trapped” in the home, and he is attempting to give the audience the perspective of being trapped in a home on top of a cliff overlooking the sea. 

“They have to arrive by boat and leave by boat,” he said.

Timmer said that set pieces will include rocks and stone walls edging the cliff to make things more believable.

“That will play into it as well — pretty intriguing,” Timmer said of the production, which is set in the late 1930s at the fictitious Soldier Island off the coast of southern England.

Timmer said making the production believable and not campy is key. 

“Some films out there are too far-fetched,” he said. Less is more. He said there won’t be a lot of blood and gore as in today’s movies or in cult classics. Freddie Krueger, anyone? 

“We’re hoping that the actors can just portray that emotion with how scared they are,” he said. 

Bloomfield Hills resident Michelle Feneberg plays the uptight Miss Emily Brent in the show. 

“She is the miserable one in the play,” Feneberg said, adding that her character doesn’t have nice things to say about people, but she has morals. “She certainly doesn’t like young men and she thinks they are no good. She respects the older characters in the play, certainly.”

Her character also doesn’t like alcohol or people who explore the world.

“She’s kind of grown up with Victorian morals, and the world is opening up now, and she doesn’t cope with that,” Feneberg said, adding that in real life, Feneberg is open-minded and loves travel and meeting people with new ideas. 

“That is why I enjoy playing her, (because) she is the exact opposite to me. It’s interesting exploring that side of the person.”

Feneberg said playing Brent isn’t always easy. 

“She is so rude to people, and (it is) hard for me to speak to people like that,” Feneberg said. “Certainly, because of her meanness, she comes under scrutiny of being the murderer, because she is so mean and cold.”

Timmer said that Feneberg is hitting all the right notes.

“She’s enjoying herself,” he said of her character. 

Director Laurie Smalis said she was in several musicals with the Farmington Players in the 1980s and 1990s, then left to do other things. She returned to the group last year.

“I realized they were going to do Agatha Christie, and I love directing mysteries and I had my own mystery theater group for a while,” she said. “(Christie) is the master of mysteries.”

Smalis said everyone who writes mysteries looks up to Christie. 

“She has been around for so long. She is the No. 1 mystery selling author of all times,” Smalis said. “‘And Then There Were None’ is her most popular.”

Smalis said that because the film adaptation has been seen many times, it is her intent to keep it “fresh and exciting” by pulling character descriptions from the novel to use in the play.

Smalis said she plans to use comedic pacing and tempo to keep things moving, as opposed to the typically more drawn-out feel of dramas and mysteries.

“Obviously this is not a comedy, but I’m going to keep with it. … In a comedy, you always want to keep things going,” she said, adding that there are some comedic elements to the play. “She wrote in a few of the characters just to be a comedic relief — the show is really heavy. There is a lot of death in it,” Smalis said.

The show will run at 8 p.m. Feb. 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24; and at 2 p.m. Feb. 11, 18 and 25.

For information on tickets, go to farmingtonplayers.org.