SANDY — It was a snowy and mysterious night full of intrigue and thrills inside of the Hale Centre Theatre‘s Jewel box theatre as I attended their production of Agatha Christie‘s The Mousetrap directed by Jim Christian. While I watched, I knew this was going to be challenging to write, because I don’t want to say too much and spoil the fun for others. If my review seems vague at times, forgive me. Being vague is more forgivable than dishing spoilers for this fantastic show.
The set (designed by Jenn Taylor) is a beautiful old English home rich in woodwork and Victorian era furniture. A fire crackles in the hearth with an ornate golden peacock grate before it. Heavy gold and red drapes frame huge windows on the landing. A window seat is nestled beneath the windows. Swirling snow (light design by Colin Skip Wilson) is seen through the window’s frosted panes as the sound of wind blows through the theatre. In the center of the room rests a royal blue, velvet sofa with clawed wooden feet. Next to the sofa on a doily-covered table rests small wooden wireless that is central to the show.
The show begins as Mollie Ralston, played by Morgan Fenner, is blown into the home from the winter storm outside as the radio is announcing the murder of Mrs. Maureen Lyon. Mollie bustles about as her husband Giles Ralston, played by Clayton Barney, also comes in from the cold. Tonight is an important night for the young couple, as it marks the opening of their guesthouse, Monkswell Manor. Fenner and Barney had a fun teasing air of a not-long married couple as they went about making final preparations for their first guests to arrive.
The first guest to arrive is Christopher Wren, a young man with disheveled hair and an artsy flair, who is played by Samuel Wright. He instantly full of enthusiasm and praise for the home. His charming energy is immediately welcomed by Mollie but receives a bit on an eyebrow raise from Giles. Soon the other guests arrive: Mrs. Boyle (Heidi Scott), Major Metcalf (Bradley Moss), and Miss Casewell (Kaitlyn LeBaron). Scott is the perfect fussy old biddy set in her ways. Her character is not easy to please and nothing seems to suit her, but after Giles says she is welcome to leave, Mrs. Boyle decides to give the place a try, even if it is not fully staffed with servants. With how nitpicky Mrs. Boyle is, it’s a pleasure to watch Christopher and Miss Casewell abuse her behind her back. I particularly enjoyed LeBaron’s dancing and smugness as she created enough noise to chase Mrs. Boyle from the best seat by the fire. The eccentrics of Miss Casewell and Christopher Wren were different enough to keep them from being bosom friends but made for a nice complimenting pair during their interactions. Another eccentric character who bought a fun layer of intrigue and humor to the production was Mr. Paravicini, played by Chandler Bishop. Mr. Paravicini’s forwardness towards Mollie Ralston was the perfect amount of slime ball and comedy.
The entire cast did well at giving nods to their characters’ secrets while not being overly obvious. Their finesse gave me many suspicions to mull over throughout the show. I didn’t take many notes as I watched, because I was so busy trying to solve the mystery, especially when a second murder takes places at Monkswell Manor. I also enjoyed the character of Detective Sergeant Trotter, played by Adam Packard. Packard did well at creating a commanding detective while being a little younger and more relaxed than is perhaps the expected stereotype for a British inspector.
This production was smooth running with only minor sound cue opening night glitches, such as the phone ringing after Mollie answered it. There was one moment when Mollie states, “I’ll turn on the lights,” but the lights were already on low and Mollie merely brightens them. While I understand the desire to have lights already on, it did break the reality of the scene for me. I heard the person sitting behind me commenting about it as it happened.
Overall, this night was an enjoyable night out. It made me go home and check out several Agatha Christie audiobooks. I had forgotten how much I enjoy her mysteries. I’d happily watch this production multiple times. I’d truly love to gush and tell more about this production, but I won’t out of respect for viewers who don’t know the ending of this mystery. Go check it out. It’s well worth your time, especially if you love a good mystery.