BWW Reviews: Wonderful Production of THE MOUSETRAP at The Rep
I can't say that I've ever read much of Agatha Christie's work, I'm more inclined toward the convoluted and pulpy prose of Raymond Chandler myself. But, there's no denying the staying power of her play, The Mousetrap, which is still running in Britain since its opening in 1952. It's become an institution, and has influenced countless writers with its mix of quirky characters and deliberately misleading red herrings. The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is presenting this classic mystery in a splendidly performed production, and it's a perfect holiday treat that engages and entertains.
The Ralstons are a young married couple who have just started up an inn called Monkswell Manor. On the day of their grand opening they become snowed in with three invited guests, and one stranded motorist, whose car overturned in a ditch. At the same time, a murder has taken place nearby, and the suspect is still at large. Many years ago, three children were left in the custody of an abusive couple after their mother passed away, and one of them died from neglect. The victim in this case is the mother who took the children in, and then proceeded to make their lives hell. The presumption here is that this is a crime of revenge, perpetrated by one of the surviving children. A clue leads a policeman to the manor, but will his appearance on the scene be enough to prevent another murder?
Ellen Adair and William Connell make a nice couple as Mollie and Giles Ralston, respectively. Their initial unease at their business undertaking is compounded by the situation they soon find themselves a part of. Both are hiding something from one another, and both find themselves in awkward positions in accounting for their actions when a guest is killed.
Sean Mellott does solid work as the flamboyant man-child, Christopher Wren, the first guest to arrive at the manor. Mellott captures the essence of this "mama's boy" who bonds with Mollie instantly, and provides the show with a number of humorous moments. His infatuation with nursery rhymes eerily echoes the killer's signature whistling of "Three Blind Mice", and casts a shadow of guilt his way. Darrie Lawrence is perfectly insufferable as Mrs. Boyle. Boyle's prior occupation, which she foolishly conceals, tragically links her to the killer.
Michael James Reed is very good and properly stalwart as fellow guest, Major Metcalf. Could he be the children's original father, who had been serving a tour of duty when their mother died and they were taken away? Or, should suspicion fall on the strangely aloof guest who calls herself Miss Casewell? Tarah Flanagan gives her a tough veneer that masks a pain she's reluctant to reveal. Perhaps it's the stranger, Mr. Paravicini, wonderfully overplayed with a marvelously thick accent by Larry Paulsen. And then there's the sudden appearance on skis of Det. Sgt. Trotter. Christian Pederse lends Trotter a "by the book" sincerity that quickly allows him to establish control, even if he's too late to stop a crime from being committed.
Paul Mason Barnes directs with a sure hand, and the pace is generally upbeat throughout. I found myself completely involved and on The Edge of my seat while anticipating the final plot twist, so this venerable "War Horse" still has a lot of life left in her. John Ezell conjures up a beautifully realized set that's effectively lit by Peter E. Sargent. Dorothy Marshall Englis once again contributes exceptional costumes that lend a nice period feel to the proceedings.
This wonderful production of The Mousetrap by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis continues through December 29, 2013 at the Loretto-Hilton.