This one’s for all you whodunit fans who especially have a love for the popular murder mysteries of England’s Dame Agatha Christie (1890-1976). THE MOUSETRAP (originally named “Three Blind Mice”) is the “world’s longest running play” which currently still can be seen in London. No need to board a plane when you can enjoy it right here at the Walnut Street Theatre. The setting is a cold wintry evening in England’s countryside in the present, 1952.
With a huge blizzard about, it’s the first night that the newly renovated Monkswell Manor is open for business as a guest house. As luck would have it, the young lovey-dovey newlyweds and owners, Giles and Mollie Ralston (Dan Hodge and Jennie Eisenhower), are faced with the problem of no heat just when they’re expecting four guests to arrive shortly; although they couldn’t imagine how their company would even get there on the deeply snow-covered roads. In all the activity on stage, it can be heard on the radio, at least by us, the audience, that in London a woman had just been found murdered.
A lack of heat is the least of the Ralstons’ difficulties as each of their four guests manage to arrive, one by one. Our six “one-of-a-kind” characters together make for an interesting eventful stay at Monkswell Manor: flighty Christopher Wren (Eric Bryant), annoying Mrs. Boyle (Judith Knight Young), subdued Major Metcalf (Paul L. Nolan) and masculine-ish Miss Casewell (Charlotte Northeast). An unexpected drop-in is dapper Mr. Paravicini (Laurent Giroux) appearing somewhat sinister and mildly deranged. And the recent murder on the outside brings one more visitor, Detective Sergeant Trotter (Harry Smith), to the Manor. Our story is now set for the audience members to undo the web that’s been spun.
The play ran smoothly. All eight characters were well developed and memorable (at least to me). Thanks to the director, Malcolm Black, for that. Laurent Giroux’s portrayal of Mr. Paravicini was extremely funny; he seemed very comfortable in his role and really knew how to “work it”. It showed in his every movement, every facial expression. Mrs. Boyle’s high-pitched voice sometimes kept me from clearly understanding what she was saying.
Personally, I would have preferred stronger (more wind, creakier sounds, slamming doors) and stranger sound effects (flapping bat wings) to jar me out of my comfort zone. The same could be said for lighting – more use of the theatre itself. We audience participants enjoy a cerebral challenge, but we also like to be scared out of our wits. Or else we have to wake up Fred and tell him it’s time to go home.
Until the next show …
Play by Agatha Christie
Directed by Malcolm Black
January 17-March 4, 2012
Walnut Street Theatre
825 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107