One little, two little, three little Indians…Agatha Christie’s play is a poetic amalgam of murderous mayhem

By By Jerome Burns

By Jerome Burns

The curtains rise, the lights begin to brighten and cheap sound effects begin to play. The shadows become figures, and those figures begin to move-the world becomes whole and a plot begins to evolve.

Such is the humble and incredibly generic beginning of Pioneer Theatre Company’s presentation of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians,” a play indicative of all Christie stood for: agonizingly slow beginnings, almost comical murder plotlines and incredibly dynamic characterization.

“Ten Little Indians” begins with the 10 main characters arriving at the paradisiacal Indian Island under the pretense that a mutual friend invited them all on a vacation. Shortly after the group’s arrival, a cryptic message (voice courtesy of Satan) is played over gramophone claiming that each of the guests is, in fact, a murderer. The guests each deny the accusation and begin pointing fingers at each other for supposed misdeeds. After some raised voices and hurt feelings, the guests settle down a bit.

Oh, but it’s only for a brief moment-immediately things get quiet again, one of the guests dies (choked to death, apparently) and chaos rages again. Eventually the guests notice the large poster on the wall that contains the poem “Ten Little Indians,” the first line of which reads: “Ten little Indians going out to dine/One choked his little self, and then there were… Nine”. After much deliberation and deep thinking, the group comes to the brilliant conclusion that someone is trying to kill them all, for reasons unknown, using the poem as an outline for the methods.

Up until this point, the plot moves at the pace of a dead Labrador retriever. However, things begin to pick up intensely with the coming of the second act. Then all the fun begins: After the first guest is killed, a domino effect ensues and the rest of the guests start dropping like, well…little Indians. Each new murder is increasingly unusual and all fall within the foreboding instructions of the namesake poem. Soon the death toll reaches the point that it is obvious the murderer is among the remaining guests, and accusations begin to fly again. This realization-while intrepid-comes too late for the remaining character’s salvation.

“Then Little Indians'” set design was simply amazing, as it complimented the play’s dark mood perfectly and added some color to the plot itself. The characters are all very magnetic, and even their accents are tolerable (thankfully some of the more annoying ones die-off early). The plot itself stays true to Christie’s vision and though it starts off slow, it develops into a very deep and entertaining production. The only really smudge on “Ten Little Indians” otherwise spotless record was the sound effects: Surely in the future, Pioneer Theatre Company can do better than playing homemade recordings of windstorms and trips to the beach.

[email protected]

“Ten Little Indians”Pioneer TheatreLocated at 300 S. 1400 East. Running Oct. 20 through Nov. 6.For more ticketing information, call 581-6191 or go to