Eight strangers. One isolated guesthouse. Throw in some heavy snowfall and a murder and you've got a recipe for entertainment. "The Mousetrap" is Dame Agatha Christie's only foray into the world of live theater after penning dozens of novels.
2nd Story Theater's production is a spirited one with a talented cast. Mollie and Giles Ralston (Erin Elliot and Dillon Medina) are barely one year into their marriage and decide to open a guesthouse and run it themselves. The guests will all be arriving soon, and it's the snowiest night of the year. What will happen on this inclement night?
The guests are typical Christie fare; a smattering of characters from different walks and backgrounds. Christopher Wren (Ben Church) is a flamboyant architect, Mrs. Boyle (Paula Faber) is a former Magistrate from London. Major Metcalf (F. William Oakes) a retired military man, Miss Caswell (Erin Olson) a rather androgynous writer living in Europe, and rounding out the cast are Mr. Paravicini (Vince Petronio) and Detective Sergeant Trotter (Ara Boghigian.)
Paravicini arrives not as part of the guest list, but as a traveler marooned by the weather, and the policeman "skis" in to investigate a possible connection to a murder committed in London earlier in the week. The action takes place over the course of one night and day, but there's plenty of strange goings on, clues, sounds and strange behavior to keep the audience at rapt attention.
As the guesthouse owners Elliot and Medina are perfectly cast; they are a typical English couple and their performances are quite solid. As Mrs. Boyle, Faber is appropriately cranky and rude, pointing out the obvious shortcomings of the accommodations and weather. As the Major, Oakes is friendly and loud, announcing his whereabouts at every corner. Miss Caswell is competently played by Olson in a thoughtful performance.
But it is the roles of Christopher Wren and Mr. Paravicini that shine brilliantly. Church as Wren is a delight, prancing about the stage commenting on everybody and everything in the most inappropriate ways, he brings much energy to the production. As Paravicini, Petronio chews the scenery as the powdered and heavily made-up stranger, every syllable accentuated with a flourish. Finally the "cop" is played by Boghigian in a very matter-of-fact style, ordering about our guests and making sure his demands are met promptly.
The production is a flawlessly executed one. Directors Pat Hegnauer and Ed Shea clearly know the material well and work a tightly paced play chock full of technical aspects with ease. The set is perfect for the hi jinx, secret doors and plenty of visual accents.
Costumes by Ron Cesario are great and evoke the '50s English style easily. "Mousetrap" opened in 1952 in London's West End. Christie herself mused that it would run for eight months. After 25,000+ performances the show holds the world record for the longest initial run of a play, and is STILL running now at St. Martin's Theater.
But you don't have to travel to the U.K. to see this great show, just drive to 2nd Story Theater in Warren, RI.
"The Mousetrap" plays through September 1 at 2nd Story Theater, 28 Market St. Warren, RI 02885. For info or tickets, call 401-247-4200 or visit www.2ndstorytheater.com.