Can an Agatha Christie mystery still be interesting if you already know who did it? Thanks to a talented cast and a polished production from 1st Stage, the answer is a solid “Yes.”
The Mousetrap may be Dame Agatha’s most famous drama due to its record run (ongoing since 1952) in London’s West End. While it lacks the intelligence and style of Witness for the Prosecution or the kitschy fun and higher body count of Ten Little Indians, The Mousetrap is a tightly crafted and enjoyable piece of theatre.
The story opens with a radio broadcast of a suspicious murder in London, not far from the location of a new guest house named Monkswell Manor. Proprietors Giles Ralston (John Stange) and his wife Mollie (Jennifer Weinreich) are anxiously awaiting both their first guests and an impending snow storm.
As Mollie observes, “all of our guests are unpleasant or odd.” Lodgers are the flamboyant and emotional architecture student Christopher Wren (Karl Bittner); the sour and critical Mrs. Boyle (Suzanne Richard); the solid Major Metcalf (Patrick Smith); direct modern woman Miss Casewell (Abby Wood); and, the unexpected yet charming Mr. Paravicini (Luke Tudball).
It’s Wren who remarks “you never know what anyone is really like.”, just one example of Christie’s foreshadowing in this mother of all drawing room mysteries.
The action kicks into gear when the earnest Detective Sergeant Trotter (Arden Moscati) arrives with disquieting news. The individual who committed the London murder may be among the inhabitants of the now snowed-in house. Further, the murderer may intend to kill two more individuals, a warning given credence by a death near the end of Act One.
Mousetrap‘s primary appeal is the way its author gives the audience reasons to suspect each guest and the mounting suspense about the potential death of “Three Blind Mice.”
The danger is nicely enhanced by a realistic rural English manor with plenty of doorways and staircases, as well as sconces and lights that nicely dim when the tension builds (thanks to C. Ian Campbell).
Director Jessica Lefkow does a nice job establishing the relationships of the characters and focusing their interactions. While these characters are not the most three-dimensional, several of the actors succeed in find amusing quirks or emotional subtexts. These include Bittner’s entertaining take on Wren, Weinrich’s grounded performance as a nervous hostess, and Richard’s convincing portrayal of what one guest aptly describes as a “perfectly awful woman.”
The second act does not achieve all of the emotional impact that it could have – a bit more menace from some of the characters might help – although the creepy renditions of “Three Blind Mice” nicely accented the mood.
Overall, the 1st Stage production of The Mousetrap is a thoroughly intriguing and entertaining production of a classic mystery. If it can be enjoyed by a reviewer who knows the outcome, it will be a real treat for those who have the fun of trying to unlock its secrets. Just pray you aren’t snowed in with the killer.
Written by Agatha Christie
Directed by Jessica Lefkow
Produced by 1st Stage
Reviewed by Steven McKnight