The Mousetrap Weaves a Tangled Patchwork of Suspense
The Mousetrap, now playing at Bowie Playhouse and produced by Prince George’s Little Theatre, is a purist’s take on late mystery writer Agatha Christie’s classic play, which has run continuously since 1952. (Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino recently borrowed its suspects-in-a-room conceit in The Hateful Eight.) While Christie has been accused over the years of creating cardboard characters, The Mousetrap does explore—specious plot or no—the theme of identity: “Do we really know one another?” As directed by theater veteran Randy Barth, it will strength-train your brain and leave you entertained.
The play has its origin in a 1947 radio drama entitled Three Blind Mice, and revolves around newly married couple Giles (Brendan Perry) and Mollie Ralston (Brawnlyn Blueitt), who run an inn (which they inherited from Mollie’s aunt), Monkswell Manor, in the English countryside. New to hotel management, the couple welcomes several eccentric guests one cold and snowy night, but not before a radio broadcast announcing the murder of one Maureen Lyons, and tales of a suspect wearing a dark coat and a soft felt hat.
The first to arrive is supposed architect Christopher Wren (the astoundingly good Matt Leyendecker); then stern magistrate Mrs. Boyle (the excellent Linda Smith); the stately Major Metcalf (the engaging Sandy Irving); the exotic, debonair Mr. Paravicini (the always spot-on Keith Brown), and finally the aloof Miss Casewell (Erica Mueller).
After a call to Mollie from Superintendent Hogben of the Berkshire Police about the recent murder, Detective Sergeant Trotter (Carlo Olivi) is dispatched to Monkswell Manor to not only protect the inhabitants of the manor, but to find out what in Hades is going on.
After the demise of one of the guests, by one of the snowed-in guests, complications arise and the audience learns to expect the unexpected. The back story of this mystery has to do with two very bad foster parents, the mother being the aforementioned Maureen Lyon and their three foster kids. There was the usual who-was-where-when-what-happened and which-one-of-the-suspects-did-it machinations throughout the rest of the play, and finally the big reveal; but the real treat from the show were the performances.
Leyendecker’s performance shined like new money; with his nervous twitches, and the recitation of nursery rhymes , Leyendecker made the character Christopher Wren unforgettable.
Blueitt commanded the stage and all her scenes as Mollie. As an actress, she played nearly every emotion that can be played, to a high degree. Smith’s Mrs. Boyle was a critical, old bird. She hated everybody.
The set was exquisite, built and designed so well, it could win an award all by itself. From the burgundy wallpaper, the deeply stained wood doors and ornate furniture, the set put me in mid-1950s Great Britain at a place called Monkswell Manor. The Set Designer, the aforementioned Keith Brown, and Set Decorator and Painter Roy Peterson created a set that looked ready to move into. Properties Designer Susan Crabb populated the set with lamps, books, busts, and pictures that gave the hall a stately character.
Costume Designer Jeane Binney created a memorable 1950s look for all the characters. Sweaters were common for the male characters and skirts and pant suits worked effectively for the women. The faux radio transmissions were well done. Sound Designer Bob Morris did a superior job. The stage snow at the top of the show, courtesy of Olivi, was effective in setting a tone and sense of place for the story about to be told.
Prince George’s Little Theatre’s The Mousetrap weaves a tangled patchwork of suspense and is a cast-iron bet to have a great run. Go and take in The Mousetrap. The suspense will kill you.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
The Mousetrap plays through April 30, 2016 at Prince George’s Little Theatre performing at Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 937-7548, or purchase them online.