Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Whodunit Agatha Christie Fans?--"The Mousetrap" Opens October 16th At The James F. Dean Theatre

Friday's weather on the Square in Summerville, after the warm sun retreats below the shops and tall oaks, is forecasted to be pleasantly comfortable with clear skies. But inside the James F. Dean Theatre, where its interior has been ingeniously and skillfully transformed into an English manor featuring a sitting room packed with Victorian furnishings, a tall stained glassed window, door’s with arched openings leading off to various rooms, and numerous hidden staircases, an implausible snow storm will be raging. Recently renovated and converted into a guest house, from October 16th to October 25th, Agatha Christie's Monkswell Manor will be open for accommodations and you are invited to spend the evening, if you dare.

You see, a notebook has been found linking it to a murder. The words "Three Blind Mice" are written on it under the Manor's address and a piece of paper containing the ominous message, "This is the first," accompanying it. Everyone present is subsequently either a suspect or a potential victim with the murderer anticipated to strike two more times. Be on your guard, when the phone goes dead, all hell breaks loose. The cast of characters is as follows:

Mollie Ralston, the wife of Giles Ralston, is the owner of Monkswell Manor. She inherited it from her aunt. An ordinarily attractive, level-headed young woman, her perfectly reasonable and achievable goal is the development of Monkswell Manor into a pleasant livelihood for herself and her husband. Her unfaltering sympathetic feelings towards a young, male guest draws some ire from her husband of one year. Mollie is a young woman with secrets.

Giles Ralston is Mollie's husband. The two married only three weeks after meeting. So, his past is a bit of a mystery. He's very jealous, loyal and protective towards his wife. During the course of the night, Mollie senses he is acting somewhat distant and is forced to address suspicions raised about a clandestine trip he made to London on the day of Mrs. Stanning’s death. He wears a coat, scarf, and hat similar to those seen on the killer, but it is not just these accoutrements, in the coat’s pocket, there is something incriminating.

Christopher Wren is a capricious, obviously neurotic young man; behavior that makes him an apparent suspect as the night progresses, which angers him at one point. The first guest to arrive at Monkswell Manor, he makes himself at home, which rubs Giles the wrong way from the get-go, especially the attention he is given by Mollie. He admits he is running away from something, but refuses to say what. Wren claims to have been named after the architect.

Mrs. Boyle is an old English fuddy-duddy. Forced by the weather to share a taxi from the train station, she and Major Metcalf arrive together. She surveys everything with displeasure and looks at her surroundings disapprovingly. From the moment of her arrival, she complains about everything from the furnishings to the service. Her agitating disposition is so infuriating to the guests, they would literally like to strangle her.

Major Metcalf is a typical retired British military officer. He doesn't say a whole lot. He is more of an observer. However, what you see is not exactly what you get.

Miss Katherine Casewell is the last of the booked guests to arrive at Monkswell Manor. She is very reserved in her demeanor and remains mysteriously indifferent to the other guests and takes exception to being interrogated about who she is, where she is from, and her reason for coming to Monkswell Manor.

Mr. Paravicini is an unexpected guest at Monkswell Manor with some unusual peculiarities. Claiming his car has overturned in a snowdrift, he asserts the snow has blocked the roads and that everyone in the house is now trapped. The other guests hypothesize over his strange accent and wonder about his true age; Mr. Paravicini appears to have artificially made himself look older with the use of make-up. He also likes to stir the pot.

Detective Sergeant Trotter is a late arriving guest at Monkswell Manor. Mollie answered a telephone call from Superintendent Hogben of the Berkshire Police telling her that he was dispatching Sergeant Trotter to the guest house, and that the Ralstons must listen carefully to what he has to tell them. The Ralstons wonder what they could have done to garner police attention. Arriving on skis, Detective Trotter proceeds to question everyone in an effort to establish a relationship between any of the guests and a murder already committed at another location.

The Mousetrap had broken records in London's West End and established playwright, Agatha Christie, in the public eye. It opened in 1952 and ran continuously for 60 years. The 25,000th performance took place on November 18, 2012. The performance accompanied the unveiling of the Agatha Christie memorial statue in Leicester Square--commemorating her great works and her contributions to the theater.

Director Chrissy Eliason has booked a competent cast who convincingly mirror the true nature of Agatha Christie's original characters. Heather Jane Hogan as Mrs. Boyle was picture perfect and so believably obnoxious, I wanted to get up out of my seat and strangle her myself.

Jordan Katie Stauffer as Miss Casewell was captivating to watch as she stoically moved about the stage from chair to chair, chair to window, and window to desk, on which a pivotal prop sat, a period piece radio.

Victoria Teal Hartshorn and Daniel Breuer had the right stuff as Mollie Ralston and Giles Ralston. I don't know if Victoria and Daniel have any English in their genes, but according to my humble observation, they were the bee's knees as the proper English couple.

If you have ever had the pleasure of hanging out with Ernie Eliason, Mr Paravicini is his counterpart--playful and gregarious. Humor is integral to a good Whodunit and William Boyd masterfully provided the lighthearted aspects to ease the tension as the over-enthusiastic, slightly off-kilter Christopher Wren.

The complicated role of Detective Sergeant Trotter was played by Jim Brantley, who juggled names and notes proficiently through a varied range of emotions. To round out the cast, Major Metcalf was played by Fred Hutter.

Well done costumes, typical of the time period, and very English.

As stated earlier, the play features an ingeniously and skillfully built set--trademarks of Chrissy Eliason and Company plays. Beautifully lit for optimum mood, precisely furnished and smartly functional. Each prop having a place and serving a purpose. Oozing with atmosphere and realism, the icy chill between the guests in the manor's sitting room is only surpassed by the chill outside the room's large window, partly covered with blowing snow, where Detective Sergeant Trotter made his first appearance.

If you are an Agatha Christie fan, you don't want to miss The Mousetrap. So, go ahead and make your reservation and then put on your sleuth hats, and maybe add a scarf. Outside the James F. Dean Theatre the temperatures may be pleasant, but inside there is a chill in the air and murder is afoot. Whodunit? That is for you to figure out, and when you do, keep it to yourself--Agatha Christie wants it that way.

You can purchase your tickets to join the fun at Flowertown Players Tickets.

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