BWW Review: THE MOUSETRAP at Fulton Theatre
Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap marks the welcomed return of drama to the Fulton Theater's mainstage. For far too long, the company has produced one big, splashy musical comedy after another. It is good for a theater to have some variety, something different now and then, and The Mousetrap fits the bill.
To say that the show is a crowd-pleaser would be a severe understatement. It has earned it's spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest running play of all time. The murder mystery opened in London in 1952, and is still running today, well over 25,000 performances later! put that into perspective, Life with Father, Broadway's longest running play, ran a mere 3,324 performances. The Mousetrap has had more than twice as many performances as Broadway's musical juggernaut, The Phantom of the Opera.
No one was more surprised with the show's success than the playwright. Agatha Christie predicted its run to be "no more eight months". Sixty-six years later, it is still going strong. It is a fun show, and has many enjoyable moments to hook the audience and keep them guessing.
The premise of the show is similar to many of Christie's greatest works. Gather a group of eccentric strangers together in a confined location, kill off someone who "had it coming", and then let suspicions and accusations fly. A similar template was introduced recently in her film, Murder on the Orient Express. However, The Mousetrap's motives and resolution are far different and equally original.
The Mousetrap takes place in Monkswell Manor, a newly restored guest lodge hosted by Giles Ralston (Andrew Kindig) and his wife Mollie (Katie Sina). Both Kendig and Sina do an excellent job at being the straight men characters for the show. Their reactions to their bizarre guests and threatening situations are well-refined and appropriate. It is a difficult balance to convey fear and worry, while simultaneously maintaining a British stiff upper lip.
The five guests (and potential suspects) of Monkswell Manor are a strange, yet memorable cast of characters. John Reeger plays the crusty Major Metcalf, a stuffy war veteran. Then there is Mrs. Boyle played by Paula Scrofano. Scrofano's Boyle is a miserable and entitled old biddy from the moment she walks on stage. Congratulations on making us hate you so much.
Peter Simon Hilton plays audience favorite, Christopher Wren. His weird and sassy guest was a total blast in the first act-mocking characters behind their backs, pantomiming gruesome decapitations, and galloping around the stage like a demented cheerleader. However, it was almost as if the production staff gave Hilton a note to "tone it down" during intermission. For the second act, his manic energy and dark humor were largely absent. The stark difference in characterization between acts was somewhat jarring.
Kate Fahrner plays the masculine Miss Casewell. Fahrner plays the role with equal parts attitude and intrigue. Tony Lawson is the enigmatic, unexpected final guest, Mr Paravacini. Lawson's portrayal channeled the suave, foreign charisma of Hollywood's bygone era, along the lines of Ricardo Montalbon. Yet, with such a smooth, refined demeanor, he never comes off as the threatening creep that the script suggests.
Finally, Jeffrey Coon plays Sergeant Trotter, the police detective assigned to the case. Trotter is desperately trying to gather facts, and see that all guilty parties are brought to justice. Coon plays Trotter as both smart and relentless.
The production team did an outstanding job at creating little moments that enriched the show and enhanced the atmosphere. Examples include brief musical interludes to build suspense, foreboding lighting effects, and handsome, ornate furniture.
The set by scenic designer, William Jones Mohney was very impressive. It earned the audience's spontaneous round of applause when first revealed. If Clue the board game came to life, I would bet it would look just like this.
Director, Marc Robin should be congratulated for putting together a production with all of its elements working together in harmony. I hope that the success of the show leads to more straight plays performed on the main stage.
The Fulton's production The Mousetrap is a fun play that will keep you guessing. There is no mystery why it is a great night at the theater. Performances run now through February 11. Ticket sales and more information can be found at the theater's website.