The Mousetrap at the Lyric Arts in Anoka is the best Agatha Christie stage adaptation I’ve seen in years. I’m a huge Christie fan, so I try and see any adaptation or play of hers that comes along. That usually ends up meaning I see the annual Christie adaptation at Theatre In the Round Players. When I saw that one of my favorite theaters was mounting a production of what is the longest running play in history, I was excited to say the least. The Mousetrap has been playing in London’s West End for 70 years since it opened in 1952. One of the downsides of Christie plays is that I frequently find that I’ve recently watched a film, TV adaptation, or read the source novel and can remember who the killer is. I had seen the play once previously when my college mounted it. Luckily, that was in the neighborhood of 30 years ago so while I had an inkling of who dunnit, I tried very hard not to fully recall the solution. The plus to this production is that unless you’ve seen the play performed before, read the play or had some rotter spoil it for you, you’ll be going in blind. You see part of the original contract for the play states that no film adaptation can be produced until at least six months after the West End production has closed. One begins to suspect there will never be a film of The Mousetrap. Given that, I’m going to give very little detail of the plot as I do not want to inadvertently tip anyone to the solution.
The setting is an English Manor which a newlywed couple is converting into a guesthouse, this would be what we would consider a boarding house I suppose, as bedrooms and common rooms are provided along with all of the meals. They have four guests arriving for their first week in business. Those four will be joined by a mysterious guest who is seeking shelter after his car is stranded in the blizzard that will soon cut off the residents of Monkswell Manor from the outside world. They will be joined by a police Sergeant who makes an heroic attempt to reach them via skis as the police believe that one of the people now at Monkswell Manor is a murderer!!!! Each of the guests seems to have something to hide making it near impossible to guess who’s in danger and who is a danger.
I really enjoyed every member of the cast. Isabella Dunseith and Nick Furlong are Mollie and Giles Ralston, the proprietors who have their hands full running a new and unfamiliar business as well as dealing with difficult customers. For instance, Miriam Monasch who plays Mrs. Boyle, possibly the most contrary and judgemental old biddy in the England, plays it so perfectly that you get a little thrill everytime someone upsets her. My favorite is the over the top in just the right way, Andrew Newman as Christopher Wren, the architect, but not that architect Christopher Wren. He’s a bundle of affectations that endeared him to the audience and Mollie, but rubs the manly Giles the wrong way. Newman makes the most of the role and it’s through him that we get a lot of the comic relief. David Coral as Major Metcalf and Rachel Postle round out the expected guests. Raul Arambula redeems himself nicely as Mr. Paravinci, the mysterious foreigner seeking shelter from the storm. Another over the top performance but again in a delightful way that provides another source of comic relief. Finally we have Sebastian Grim as Detective Sergeant Trotter who arrives to save the day only to find a house full of people who refuse to be up front with him, putting their lives at risk by keeping secrets. Grim, plays the straight man well, getting a few laughs of his own, but he also pulls off the concerned police man trying his best to root out the killer before he or she can strike again.
Craig Johnson directs the show with confidence, it runs like a well oiled machine, you’d think this production had been running for 70 years. He’s captured the perfect manor house mystery vibe. The scenic design by Greg Vanselow somehow ingeniously manages to create something like 6 to 8 points of exit from the mainroom set. There were a couple of things that didn’t quite work here. First the pine trees outside the large window in the main room, look exactly like what they are, painted pieces of wood, I think a couple of artificial christmas trees would have been a much better route. The other thing was the noise created by characters walking across the set. I don’t know if we needed rugs or better wood, but it sounded like someone walking across a set, not a manor house room. Shannon Elliott’s lighting design and Samantha Fromm Haddow’s costume design along with Madeline Achen’s Props round out the productions look beautifully.
The Mousetrap is a well plotted mystery full of red herrings and plot twists. It’s a great whodunnit with a nice amount of character driven humor along for the ride. I saw three fairly serious plays prior to this each with some really challenging ideas and themes. As much as I enjoy that type of theater it sure was nice to sit back and enjoy a good old fashioned entertainment. You just cannot go wrong with Lyric Arts production of The Mousetrap. The show runs through March 20th, for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.lyricarts.org/
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