Village Theatre sets intriguing drama in ‘The Mousetrap’

January 22, 2013

By David Hayes

Mysterious guest Christopher Wren, played by Quinn Armstrong, passes his dark coat, light scarf and felt hat to Monkswell Manor’s proprietor Mollie Ralston, played by Hana Lass. By John Pai/Village Theatre

Mysterious guest Christopher Wren, played by Quinn Armstrong, passes his dark coat, light scarf and felt hat to Monkswell Manor’s proprietor Mollie Ralston, played by Hana Lass. By John Pai/Village Theatre

To enjoy some of the finer things in life, there are rules. For example:

  • The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.
  • What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
  • And, do not reveal the plot of “The Mousetrap.”

Each has its own reason to remain spoiler free. Village Theatre hopes its patrons adhere to the latter so subsequent audiences can enjoy its latest production, Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.”

What started as an 80th birthday tribute written for Queen Elizabeth in 1947, Agatha Christie thought her radio broadcast, “Three Blind Mice,” adapted for stage would have an uneventful eight-month run, tops.

Instead, Village Theatre is helping mark its 60th diamond anniversary, making it the longest running show, ever.

What can be discussed about the plot is its set up, something Christie virtually pioneered in such novels as “Murder on the Orient Express” and “And Then There Were None.” Isolate a handful of strangers, stranded from the outside world, and put in their midst a murder suspect and potential victim. It’s the audience’s job to figure out how many others will get caught up in the crossfire.

Director Jeff Steitzer returns to Village Theatre, having helmed last season’s “The Odd Couple.” While other productions have updated the timeline for “The Mousetrap,” Steitzer has kept in references to World War II and rationing.

If you go

‘The Mousetrap’

  • Village Theatre — Francis J. Gaudette Theatre
  • 303 Front St. N.
  • Through Feb. 24
  • Showtimes vary
  • $22 to $63
  • 392-2202 or
  • www.villagetheatre.org

Steitzer and his crew have also kept the traditional setting within a single great room in the Monkswell Manor Guest House. Steitzer keeps the pace crisp, with dialog that surprisingly has a good amount of humor within its intrigue to keep the audience laughing at the cast’s antics, while allowing them to guess where the plot is heading.

The cast that fills out the guesthouse rooms is a mix of veterans and newcomers to Village Theatre. The emotional center of the story falls upon Hana Lass, making her debut as Mollie Ralston, joined by Richard Nguyen Sloniker, last seen as Bernardo in “West Side Story,” as her husband Giles. They play host to the strangers who will join their midst.

With few exceptions, each cast member is given ample time to chew up some scenery. Giving quite memorable performances were Village Theatre first-timer Quinn Armstrong, as the hyperactive Christopher Wren, and David Pichette, last seen in Village Theatre’s “Sleuth,” starring as the mysterious Mr. Parvincini. Both have a grand time trying to out-flamboyant each other in their quirkiness.

The cast is rounded out by the ever critical Mrs. Boyle (played by Ellan McClain, who regulars might recognize from her many appearances including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Iron Curtain”), Major Metcalf (R. Hamilton Wright), Miss Casewell (Jennifer Lee Taylor) and straight man Detective Sgt. Trott (Jared Michael Brown), sent to protect the innocent within the lodge and lure out a suspected killer.

With a static set and no song-and-dance numbers (this is Village Theatre’s only nonmusical this season), much falls upon the cast’s execution of the dialog to keep the audience riveted to their seats. With its slow burn, introducing characters one at a time, I can’t say “The Mousetrap” was successful in that regard, as there were a surprising amount of empty seats after intermission.

But, I can’t understand how anyone could invest that amount of time before intermission and not want to stick around to find out who the darn killer is. With a record-topping 25,000 total performances surpassed last November, Village Theatre’s “The Mousetrap” joins a cadre of other productions that have proudly kept the tradition alive.

Just avoid Wikipedia’s entry for “The Mousetrap,” which many have criticized for revealing the identity of the murderer without so much as a spoiler warning, and you too can become a part of an Agatha Christie tradition six decades in the making.

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