THE MOUSETRAPby Agatha Christie
ONSTAGE in Bedford
Director - Lisa Cotie
Assistant Director - Alex Krus
Stage Manager - Saira Peters
Set Design - Robert Dennard
Costume Design - Carol Anderson
Lighting Design - Robert Dennard, Lisa Cotie
Sound Design - Alex Krus
Mollie Ralston - Jocelyn Everett
Giles Ralston - Nick Haley
Christopher Wren - Timothy Jordan
Mrs. Boyle - Deborah Dennard
Major Metcalf - Kit Hussey
Miss Casewell - Esther Selgrath
Mr. Paravicini - Terry Yates
Detective Sergeant Trotter - Rick Powers
Reviewed Performance: 10/1/2011
Reviewed by Bonnie K. Daman, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
If you're familiar with Christie's repertoire of "whodunit" murder mysteries, then you know you're in for a treat, especially if you read her books or see the films. As a newcomer to the novelist, The Mousetrap is a great introduction to the genre, and the sleuth in me highly enjoys a good crime-solving story and surprise twist ending.
Before reading any further please know that I have been sworn to secrecy by ONSTAGE from revealing the identity of the killer, as is the tradition for Christie's play. Whether you are hoping for a spoiler alert (that's what the internet is for) or not, I will do my best not to divulge any clues that may give the ending away and will fully comply with the author's wishes. As much as I love spoilers, this is purely all in good fun to keep you, the audience, guessing.
It's the dead of winter in 1952 England, and newlyweds Giles and Mollie Ralston prepare to open Monkswell Manor, their countryside guest house. As the boarders begin to arrive we learn via radio that a woman has been murdered in London just 30 miles from the estate. One by one it becomes all too clear that anyone could be the sought after criminal.
The first guest to arrive is Christopher Wren, a jittery and eccentric young man in his twenties. Wren seeks out the best room in the house and quickly forms a friendly bond with Mrs. Ralston. Next to arrive are Mrs. Boyle, a proud and proper old grump of a lady, and Major Metcalf who is a man of few words and keeps mostly to himself.
Miss Casewell, another on edge guest with a shady past, is the final visitor expected to arrive when moments later a knock is heard at the door. A strange Italian gentleman, Mr. Paravicini, who has landed his car in a snow bank, shows up without warning requesting lodging for the night.
Now with the house full and everyone safe from the intensifying snow storm, everything seems to be okay until the police call and Detective Sergeant Trotter arrives in search of the murderer and his or her next victim. From there, a grueling cat and mouse game ensues leaving no alibi unturned, no person safe from blame. Another murder is committed and a diabolical killer is on the loose.
The Mousetrap marks Lisa Cotie's directorial debut at ONSTAGE, as the company's new Artistic Director. Cotie proves she has a flare for the melodramatic, fully exploring the show's embellished characters and twisting plots, and giving the audience plenty of clues and "what ifs" to build their own conclusions. The staging of one character's untimely demise is well calculated, and the actual revealing of the killer successfully takes the audience by complete surprise.
Due to the number of entrances, rooms and passageways mentioned in the script, the set is purposely limited to the estate's Great Hall, and Robert Dennard's design manages to cover all the basics regarding the multiple entrances and exits. We can easily believe the dining hall and kitchen or the drawing room, with connections to the guest rooms, are all in their respective zones somewhere off set. The central focus on stage is a great bay window with a wintery background. Add in a touch of backlighting and the window sells the illusion of a snowed-in country home.
Nothing about the props scream 1950's but rather they are more of a mix and match of vintage items such as the radio, telephone, wall sconces, etc.
The costuming is more in line with the period, particularly the men in their sweater vests and felt hats, and a few choice pieces for the women such as Mrs. Ralston's full skirts and cinched or belted waist. Mr. Paravicini's plaid suit is loud and flamboyant, making him look like a traveling salesman, but it fits the character perfectly.
Aside from the backlighting behind the bay window, the overall lighting design is simple with a few switches and lamps built into the set for the actors to control. At least we're given the appearance that they do.
In the roles of Giles and Mollie Ralston, Nick Haley and Jocelyn Everett interact well and are a good match for the newlyweds whose home is turned upside down. Haley starts off somewhat passive and docile, but as things begin to unravel we see a lot more determination and gumption come from his character.
With the other characters, Everett tends to be borderline one-dimensional. She plays the damsel in distress (or annoyance) well but it feels like she's continually at the same level without much variation. She breaks out of the pattern by the final couple of scenes, and it's then we see a more well-rounded character.
Timothy Jordan as Christopher Wren is equally eccentric as his character. His tall stature, silly smile and crazy hair enhance the peculiarity of Wren and he is able to pull it off in a childlike and candid way. Jordan's accent, which needs work, and his tendency to occasionally flit out his lines, makes some of the dialogue difficult to grasp but he's a good fit for the role and in keeping the story moving along.
Mrs. Boyle as played by Deborah Dennard is the woman everyone loves to hate. Dennard has the condescending and disdainful personality down to a "t".
As Major Metcalf, Kit Hussey has very little dialogue which is a shame. Perhaps the end revealing of who each character truly is explains why Metcalf is a man of action rather than words. All things considered, Hussey is well cast for the role.
Esther Selgrath's Cockney accent is perhaps the most tailored of the cast's mix of dialects. As Miss Casewell, Selgrath plays a tough, independent woman with a dark and depressed unknown past, and she transitions between the two personalities with ease.
The unexpected guest, Mr. Paravicini, is played by Terry Yates who grabs your attention from the moment he arrives. Yates provides a humorous outlet for the show with his perfectly exaggerated Italian accent and sleazy laugh, and he plays his character a little more toward the audience than the rest of the cast.
Last to make an appearance is Rick Powers as Detective Sergeant Trotter. Powers is the epitome of the whodunit investigator and does an admirable job walking the audience through each alibi and scenario to the near conclusion of the case. The detective is a stereotypical role for murder mysteries, and Powers fills the part with a sense of duty and charm.
The cast of eight easily engages the audience from start to finish, and though the show runs just over two hours, the group is tight on their dialogue and transitions. Also, to prove how comfortable they are with each other and with the script, even a rogue fly prompting a little bit of adlib and taking three people to kill can't disrupt the perfectly orchestrated mayhem onstage.
The Mousetrap runs for two more weekends at ONSTAGE in Bedford. Bring your private eye thinking caps and brace yourself for a surprise ending you won't see coming.
ONSTAGE in Bedford, Bedford Boys Ranch Campus
2819 Forest Ridge Dr, Bedford, TX 76021
Through October 16th, 2011
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $15. Senior, student and group discounts available.
For tickets and information please call 817-354-6444 or go to Www.onstageinbedford.com.