On dark and snowy night, ‘The Mousetrap’ delights
Story by Laurie Merrill
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
Eight colorful characters are trapped in a creepy old house on a dark and snowy night, and before it is over, one will be murdered.
Who will die? Who is the killer?
That is the fun and the drama of “The Mousetrap,” which opens Friday night in Ethington Theatre for a two-weekend run. It’s a play that is at once hilarious and thrilling and is acted, directed, costumed and staged to perfection.
It represents a primer in the literary device of foreboding, a dark sense of disquiet that permeates the atmosphere. It starts with a scary voice over a crackling radio that urges audience members to silence their cell phones.
“Oh yes — you will be completely cut off from all outside communication,” it says, as much a warning to the audience enrapt by the production as to the characters snowed in by a blizzard.
As the storm rages, characters arrive one at a time, displaying idiosyncrasies at once comical and mysterious.
The first is Christopher Wren (Jeremy Carr), a nervous man whose yellow suit of faded grandeur contrasts with his hysterical mannerisms and hilarious hairdo. The second guest, Mrs. Boyle (Madison Kesterson), a stout, demanding woman with a big bosom and sensible shoes, seems to have walked directly out of the past onto the Ethington stage. The next to arrive is the pipe-smoking, gray-haired Major Metcalf (Logan Barrett), followed by three others.
Every detail of their clothing and each accessory reflects the era and is a testament to the work of costume designer Nola Yergin.
Even as Mollie and Giles Ralston (Stacy Smith and Ben Tietz), a young couple married one year, prepare to receive their guests, a radio report announces that a murder has been committed that very day on a fog-shrouded London street — and that Scotland Yard is on the lookout for a man in a dark overcoat, soft hat and light-colored scarf.
That several guests are garbed in just such an outfit is one of many twists in the clue-riddled production that keeps audience members hopping, guessing and laughing.
“All of our guests are either unpleasant or odd,” Mollie confides to Giles, uttering an understatement about the odd assortment of customers staying in the gloomy former monastery on the first night it opens as an inn.
Part of the suspense is that every guest becomes a suspect and each is protecting a secret.
There are guests who made plans to visit Monkswell Manor and others who wound up there at the last minute.
“Who am I? You do not know … I am a man of mystery,” says one such surprise visitor, Mr. Paravicini (Caleb Heithoff), who claims his car turned over in a nearby snow drift.
“One of you is in danger, deadly danger,” declares Sergeant Trotter (Trevor Penzone), the last to arrive.
But even guests with prior plans, such as Mrs. Casewell (Brenna Warren), voice ominous premonitions.
“When the snow melts, lots of things may have happened,” she says.
The snow is practically an additional character as well as a set element, for it appears throughout the play behind a frosty, ceiling-high window. That snow appears to be falling inside a theater in Arizona is one of many scenery coups scored by scenic designer and properties designer William Symington and crew.
The Mousetrap, written by grand dame of mystery writing Agatha Christie, was first performed on stage in 1952 in London and has played continuously ever since, making it the longest-running in history.
Audience members in attendance during Thursday’s dress rehearsal were abuzz with theories during the intermission and filled with raves when it was over.
“I loved it,” senior Fernando Ruiz said. “I loved the actors. The set was beautiful. The costumes were strong, so well thought out to reflect the era.”
“I was hooked from the beginning,” said GCU alumnus Samuel Varghese.
Director Michael Kary said “The Mousetrap” was especially delightful because it is Ethington Theatre’s first thriller.
“It has all the suspense and laughs a good mystery needs,” he said.
Other designers include College of Fine Arts and Production Dean Claude Pensis, lighting; Becky Vice, sound; Kesterson, hair and makeup; and Klay Wandelear, technical director.
It is a tradition since 1952 to urge audience members to keep the play’s secrets so as not to spoil the fun for others.
In just such a way, the scary voice over the crackling radio gave the same admonition: “Do be so kind as not to reveal the identity of our murderer — or murderess.”
Tickets are still available and can be purchased here. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sept. 9 and 10 and 2 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 11. For a slideshow of “The Mousetrap,” click here.
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected]