review contains SPOILERS, and might best be read
AFTER viewing The Mousetrap.—R.W.M.
Little Theatre believes that a fine play bears repeating; thus, they
are bringing back a show they did 25 years ago, The Mousetrap by
Dame Agatha Christie. This thriller is the longest continuously-running
play of all time; it opened in London on Nov. 25, 1952, and is still running
today, at the St. Martin’s Theatre. A murder mystery played with both
humor and high melodrama, The Mousetrap differs from your run-of-the-mill
thriller in that, unlike most, murder has already occurred when the
curtain comes up.
enough, the murder, which takes place in downtown London near Paddington
Station, seems to have little to do with the remote location where
we find ourselves: Monkswell Manor, a well-built and stolid old country estate
in the moors of England, a full two hours from London. The house has been newly
purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Giles Ralston (Jon Karnofsky and Collette Rutherford),
who have planned to turn the lovely locale into a Guest House. It is a bit
much for the two of them, in that just about the only thing they have going
for them is enthusiasm, and it is waning fast. Married only a year, neither
of them has any experience running a hotel; and with the house opening today,
they have a full roster of brand-new guests paying a pretty penny
(in November of 1952, that translates to seven guineas a week) for full room
and board and having all their creature comforts met.
their reservations, if you will, the Ralstons meet their incoming
guests bravely. The first to arrive is Christopher Wren (Jason Justice), named
specifically after the architect, in the hopes, according to him, that he will
follow in the famous man’s footsteps. He is young and high-strung and
thoroughly entranced by the old place. As such, Mrs. Ralston—Mollie—finds
she likes him immediately. This causes Giles to dislike him just
as quickly. Wren is preceded, however, by a crippling blizzard that continues
to fall as the other guests arrive—in a dazzling display that brings
kudos for set designer Roger Bridges. Coming in short order through the falling
snow are Mrs. Boyle (Marty Smith), Major Metcalf (Phil Lewis), and Miss Casewell
(Anna Nersesian). There being only four guest rooms available, this seems to
be the lot. But a pounding on the door brings in another stranger, Mr. Paravacini
(John T. Hall), who gratefully finds the home quite nearby his now-disabled
automobile. As his luck holds out, there is a small additional room
available; and the five assembled guests and their hosts settle in for what
they believe will be a long winter’s nap.
grateful that the lights, heat (such as it is), and telephone hold
up against the blizzard; Mollie, however, is rattled by a phone call, quite
unexpected, from the local constabulary. The inspector has called to advise
the Ralstons that a Detective Sergeant Trotter (Pepper Jobe) is on his way
to the Manor, for the purposes of bringing to the house news of the murder
in London, and instructions—which should be followed to the letter—on
how they should proceed. This causes all sorts of consternation among
the hosts and their guests, since no one can imagine how they can
possibly be related to said crime. Although they believe that the
Sergeant will never make it under these conditions, he soon announces
himself by pounding on the window, having arrived via cross-country
is the absolute most grim and seemingly unhappy of the entire cast,
we are almost grateful when, at the end of Act I, Mrs. Boyle meets her maker
in exactly the same way the woman was murdered in London—by strangulation.
This brings Trotter to a fever pitch, because he knows—as do we all,
there will be another murder committed unless he can stop it. To
do this, however, he needs the help of the guests; and they are,
even now, most reluctant to give him anything.
must remember in a good mystery is that one must take not a soul
at face value, and this is of course true here. No one is being entirely
honest, as each and every one has some secret to conceal. This horror pits
guest against guest, and even host against host, as jealousy and secrecy cause
even the Ralstons to distrust each other. This cast, under the direction of
Haskell Fitz-Simons, plays the script with the serious camp required, as inside
jokes are played, and the usual suspicion is cast upon each in turn.
very little to distract the viewer in this well-knit production.
The set meets the customary high standards of RLT, revealing secret
passages, doors, and even a trap door for the guests to discover. And each
of these RLT veterans brings superb skills to the creation of character. The
one new face to Raleigh theatergoers is Anna Nersesian, a native Californian
who brings a long resume with her from the West. Thus, we are left to point
out only the small items we noticed that would make for a better production,
such as the fact that those entering should have snow on them, or the obvious
tendency for accents to slip. Particularly fine performances are turned in
by Collette Rutherford as Mollie and Pepper Jobe as the detective, but our
nomination for best portrayal of a Brit goes to Phil Lewis as the Major.
All in all,
this is a tremendous production, especially if it has been a while
since you last saw The Mousetrap or, better still, if you
have not. This play is a classic, to be sure, with complications
and red herrings aplenty, and a great chance to sharpen your detection
skills. Dame Agatha leaves us with yet another breathtaking surprise
if we do not correctly gather the clues. Either way, you are in for
some great fun!
Little Theatre presents The Mousetrap Thursday-Saturday,
Oct. 12-14 and 19-21, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 15 and, at 3 p.m.
in RLT’s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh,
North Carolina. $17 Thursday, Friday, and Sunday ($13 students and
seniors 62+) and $21 Saturday. 919/821-3111 or etix at the presenters'
site. NOTE: All
shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices
are available for all shows. Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/performances/mousetrap.html
Agatha Christie: http://uk.agathachristie.com/site/home/ (official
web site). The Mousetrap: http://www.vpsmvaudsav.co.uk/ (St.
Martin's Theatre) and http://uk.agathachristie.com/site/about_christie/christie_on_stage/the_mousetrap.php
[inactive 2/07] (official
Agatha Christie web site).