Crime fiction is a literary genre that has spanned the test of time. First appearing in the early 1800’s, crime novelists and playwrights have gripped audiences for centuries. Agatha Christie is heralded as one of the best; novelist, short story writer and playwright she well known for her innovative story telling. Her classic play The Mousetrap is no different, in fact it is one of her best known works, billed as the world’s longest running play. Up to the challenge of producing this classic murder mystery is Director Carl Randolph and the Laurel Mill Playhouse.
Randolph and Co-Set Designer James Raymond set the stage handsomely. The story is told from the main living area of an old English guest house located on the fictional Monkswell Manor. Randolph and Raymond use warm colors and wood paneling to create the quaint, yet cryptic atmosphere. Ripe for murder and intrigue. As the set dresser, James Raymond also ads touches of old family photos and antique furnishings, round out the well-appointed set. The costuming for the evening designed by Linda Swann was well done, especially the outfits adorned by Elsbeth Clay as Mollie Ralston, who wore modest frocks buttoned up to the neck, just as you would expect from a proper English woman of the time.
As the lights go up on the set, we meet the proprietors of the guest house, Giles (Steve Baird) and the aforementioned Mollie Ralston (Elsbeth Clay). The twosome make for an authentic couple, offering lovely moments of nonverbal communication throughout the show. Soon after we are encountered with the guests for the week, each with their own peculiarities; Christopher Wren (Thomas Peter), the Mrs. Boyle (Phyllis Kay), Major Metcalf (David Chalmers), Miss Casewell (Tanya Pfaltzgraff) and the mysterious Paravicini (Mark T. Allen). Finally, stern ski enthused Sergeant Trotter (Eric Henry) enters the play, rounding out the amiable cast. Once the Sergeant arrives it is not too long before a murder takes place. Then the interrogations begin, the staging of the interrogations was well contrived, with the Sergeant facing away from the audience leaving us able to assess each characters reactions and non-verbal ques. The actors handled that well, never giving away too much.
Overall, the ensemble does a worthy job with the twists and turns of the script, leaving audience members guessing who might be involved with the crime until the end. Each clearly holding back, not wanting to reveal themselves completely. However, once we finally arrived at the much anticipated conclusion, it felt very anti-climactic, the energy was low and the action fell somewhat flat. I am confident that this will be rectified as the run continues.
There are some standout performances including; the garrulous Christopher Wren played by Thomas Peter. Peter has great energy, his high energy antics helps keep the pacing quick and the audience engaged, you see this right as he enters, bounding about the stage. Also, a delight to watch is Mark T. Allen as Paravicini, he is beautifully mischievous as the suave yet disturbing uninvited guest. Allen and Peter offer some of the best comedic moments throughout the show. Finally, there is Giles, Steve Baird plays him well, a convincing straight man and unwavering English accent.
Mousetrap is a very well written show and Laurel Mill Playhouse’s production is a pleasurable evening of theater. With the plot twists and surprise ending, it is no wonder that it is the longest running show in the world.
I highly recommend a visit to Laurel Mill Playhouse this month to see their excellent production of Mousetrap.
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, with one 15- minute intermission.