Based on the short story, “Three Blind Mice,” also by Agatha Christie, The Mousetrap was first produced for the London stage in 1952. Most shows are considered successful if they run for several months or even a few years. Mammoth productions reach a decade. No other show, however, will ever approach the record of one, as it is well into its 64th year of continuous production in the same London theatre. In that same vein, it has been produced by professional and community troupes all over the world to great acclaim. Interestingly, unlike many of Dame Agatha’s more successful shows, The Mousetrap has never been made into a movie. A production company has the rights, but the contract says that those rights kick in six months after the original London show ends its run. So we wait.
As if to celebrate the great playwright and author’s birthday, which happens to be September 15, the Actors Guild of Parkersburg is producing a terrific rendition of the play. It opens Friday, September 16 and runs to Sunday, September 25. And director Rod Oden has done a wonderful job of capturing the suspense, twists, and turns of the original show while giving his interpretation some more modern sensibilities.
One of the nods to the classic nature of the show is the choice to do it without one piece of modern technology that has become the norm even in smaller community theaters: amplified sound. Everyone who has been to a Guild production in the past few years has become accustomed to those little microphones attached not-so-unobtrusively to the actors’ heads. No such devices are to be found on these cast members, however. The actors just have to project to the back of the house. And they do. I had no trouble hearing the dialogue, despite the fact that I was halfway back in the theater, which was nearly filled to capacity, slightly unusual for a dress rehearsal.
It all begins on a dark, snowy night at a newly opened guest house in the remote countryside outside London. Giles and Mollie Ralston are a newlywed couple who’ve opened their inn for business on the very day that the show opens. To the soundtrack of the news on the radio of a fiendish murder in London, their first ever guests arrive one by one, only to find that they’ve promptly been snowed in by a historic blizzard. Christopher Wren, Mrs. Boyle, Major Metcalf, and Miss Casewell are joined at the last second by the mysterious Mr. Pravacini, who is not scheduled to be a guest, but who claims to have been stranded in a snow bank. As they discuss the murder and the weather, the phone rings. It’s the police. It seems that they need to speak to Giles, but before they can say why, the phone goes dead, apparently another victim of the storm.
Shortly after, Detective Sergeant Trotter arrives on the only form of transportation that’s still open—skis—and informs them that the next victim of the murderer they’ve only just been discussing is quite likely in this very house, as may be the killer. And, to no one’s surprise, Mrs. Boyle promptly gets herself strangled by the shadowy figure of someone she clearly knows. And the fun takes off from there. Whodunnit? I won’t tell, but the trip to solving the mystery is a fun one, with every character becoming the main suspect at one time or another.
The whole cast do fantastic work creating characters who seem to be regular folks on the surface but who are hiding deep secrets, some quite sinister. And the show is completed by another simply spectacular Guild-built set, dominated by the iconic huge window that seems to loom over everything. Everything about this show is spot on, from the accents to the pacing to the special effects. I thoroughly enjoyed every second and highly recommend you hurry to get your tickets.
And, if you just can’t get enough of Dame Agatha’s work, take the short drive to Marietta, where the Mid-Ohio Valley Players are presenting another of her shows at the exact same time. The Unexpected Guest, a play I’ll be reviewing next week, opens Friday, September 16 as well.