Kevin X. McNamara isn't the kind of actor who worries about being pigeonholed into playing certain characters. At least not most of the time.
It is something, however, that crossed his mind this month as he prepared for the Schenectady Civic Players production of Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None," opening Friday night at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse and running through March 24.
Many in the theater community consider "And Then There Were None" Christie's finest play. And in an Albany Civic Theater production from back in 2007, McNamara played the same character he's portraying this month in Schenectady, Judge Lawrence Wargrave.
"My character is a pompous judge who sort of likes to be in charge," said McNamara, who teaches first grade at Latham Ridge Elementary School, part of the North Colonie Central School District. "He appears to be the best person to solve the mystery, at least at the beginning. I don't know. It's the same role I had as before. Maybe I am being typecast."
Probably not. In his long career on area stages, McNamara has played a variety of roles. He was cynical reporter E.K. Hornbeck in "Inherit the Wind" at Albany Civic Theater; lovable Elwood P. Dowd in "Harvey" at Curtain Call Theatre; and the sinister but occasionally kindhearted Fagin in "Oliver!" at the Schenectady Light Opera Company.
Brian Sheldon is directing the Schenectady Civic Players production of "And Then There Were None." He has previously directed McNamara in "The Best Man" in 2016 and "Peter and the Starcatcher" in 2017, both at Albany Civic Theater.
"Kevin is as close to being a professional actor as you'll find at the community theater level," said Sheldon, a Schenectady native who is also managing director at Sand Lake Center for the Arts. "When he signs on to something, he's dedicated to it 100 percent. He knows how to work a character, and from a director's standpoint he's extremely fun and easy to work with. He's like a sponge. He'll try whatever you ask him and he's also got plenty of ideas. What's not to like about Kevin?"
Like many of Christie's novels adapted into a play, "And Then There Were None" is a true ensemble piece. Joining McNamara onstage are Matthew W. Coviello, Sara Paupini, Knathan MacKenzie-Roy, Adam Coons, David Orr, Judy Merriman, John Sutton, Rich Angehr, Susan Katz and Alan Angelo.
"There are no stars in this show, no individual leads," said McNamara, who also worked professionally as a ballroom dance instructor. "There are just a lot of talented actors, and I love how Brian gets the best out of the characters and the situation."
The play is set on a remote island off the coast of England.
"It's a murder-mystery, but Christie laced it with humor," said McNamara. "The action is all in this drawing room of a large house or mansion, and we get introduced to all the characters who one by one are murdered. She writes great characters, and they're all humorous and stereotypical. She borrows from every stereotype and then milks them as much as she can. I would say it's one of my favorite Christie plays. I know a lot of people call it their favorite play, and it really is a crowd-pleaser."
Christie published the book in 1939 in Great Britain. It is considered the world's best-selling mystery, with more than 100 million copies sold, and was adapted for the stage by Christie in 1943 with a few changes to the story. Hollywood came up with its own film version in 1945 starring Walter Huston and Barry Fitzgerald.
"I've read almost everything Agatha Christie wrote and I like this story more than anything else I've read by her," said Sheldon. "This was how murder-mysteries got their start. It's the quintessential murder-mystery. Everything that came after this play gets its base from Christie. If you watch the movie 'Clue,' you see the direct ties to Christie's play. 'And Then There Were None' is the play that got the whole murder-mystery thing started."
'And Then There Were None'
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Players, 12 South Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through March 24; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: www.civicplayers.org or (518) 382-2081