BWW Review: Agatha Christie's THE MOUSETRAP keeps its snap at the Alley Theatre
Agatha Christie's THE MOUSETRAP, now playing at The Alley Theatre, is a theatrical phenomenon. It opened in London's West End in 1952 and has been running ever since, with over 27,000 patrons so far. It has changed venues a couple of times and is currently playing at the St. Martin's Theatre. It is full every night; most, if not all of the audience are tourists.
And so, though I have been in London at least once a year, often twice or thrice a year, since 1980, and the little B&B where I stay when I'm in the city is only a few blocks from St. Martin's, which I pass two or three times a day, always glancing over at the theatre's neon marquee. I have never seen THE MOUSETRAP.
Or, as I always thought of it, "The Tourist Trap."
This, you must understand, is pure snobbery, based on nothing more than hearsay and the fact that I don't consider myself a tourist anymore, having been to London for so many years.
So when I was asked to review the Alley production, I hesitated. I had lived this long without seeing it; I could live a little longer. But then I thought, "Why not?" None of my London friends would see me going into the theatre. In fact, they might never know, if they didn't check my Facebook page. So what would be the harm? And besides, the Alley's SUMMER CHILLS series was always fun. Here was my chance to see what all the fuss was about.
Curiosity won out, as usual, and I found myself ensconced in the Alley's Hubbard Theatre, ready to be impressed. Not the best frame of mind for a critic, but there it is.
The thing is, I was. Impressed, I mean. One look at Linda Buchanan's beautiful set and I knew I was in for a treat. No theater would spend that amount of money on a dog. Well, not often. Michael Lincoln's lighting design accented it perfectly, as it did throughout the evening. The stage was set for a cozy English countryside evening - snow falling, a fire crackling on the hearth, the solid oak of an English country manor. The perfect place for a murder.
Enter Mollie Ralston (Melissa Pritchett), proprietress of said manor turned hotel, new at the business and nervous to receive her first customers. Not far behind is husband Giles (Chris Hutchison), equally nervous but trying to put a good face on it. The couple has misgivings about their decision to take in paying visitors but have come too far to turn back. Also worrying is the weather; the gentle snowfall is getting harder, and there's a chance they'll be snowed in by morning. The other guests arrive, one by one.
There's Mrs. Boyle (Alice M.Gatling), an imperious matron of meticulous standards, which she makes plain the manor does not meet.
Then there's Major Metcalf (Shawn Hamilton), brisk and military - a no-nonsense type - and Christopher Wren (no, not that one) who appears to be all nonsense. Played all-out by Dylan Godwin, he pretty much dominates every scene he's in, to the delight of the audience and to the chagrin of most of the other characters.
Rounding out the cast are Jay Sullivan as Sergeant Trotter, a policeman who shows up on skis, there investigating a case involving a situation that occurred in the vicinity some years back, and the mysterious and unexpected Paravicini (Todd Waite) who comes to the door saying that his car has slipped off the road and into a snowdrift, and he needs a place to stay for the night..
The stage is now set for murder, and Agatha does not disappoint.
That's about all of the plot I can disclose.
Whodunnit and to whom it was done would spoil the play.
Director James Black infuses the performance with his own witty sense of humor and takes the actors through their paces in style.
On another note, those of you who follow me know that I am a stickler for accuracy in period costume and designer Tricia Barsamian hits the nail firmly on the head, especially with the ratty sweaters that Christopher wears.
There is a long tradition of asking the audience not to disclose the identity of the murderer, one that I shall continue. All I can say is that there is a twist ending, but you already knew that. Go and find out for yourself, but please don't spoil the fun.
THE MOUSETRAP is extended to September 16, but, unlike the original in London, probably won't go beyond that. Go see it while you can.