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The Mousetrap

LONG RUN: Lucy Poirier and Denis Latkowski.

By R. Darryl Foxworth | Posted 2/6/2008

The Mousetrap

Agatha Christie

At the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre; run now ended.

Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap is reputed to be the longest-running play in the world, with a 55-year run in the West End of London. With such longevity, the play has entered the realm of the legendary, but expectations shouldn't be exceedingly high for this antiquated murder mystery.

The crux of the plot is straightforward enough: Newlyweds Giles (Todd Krickler) and Mollie Ralston (Lisa Mezrich) have opened a guesthouse (Monkswell Manor) outside of London, and the young couple nervously anticipates the arrival of their four guests. A terrible winter storm has enveloped the surrounding area, and a killer is running loose in London--nothing of particular interest to the Ralstons until the authorities warn them that the killer may be one of their houseguests.

The houseguests are quite the opposite of the sanguine Ralstons--save Major Metcalf (Denis Latkowski), a stand-up gentleman and longtime army man. Christopher Wren (Zak Zeeks) is something of a peculiar character, replete with unkempt hair and a disturbing, maniacal laugh that makes him endearing to Mrs. Ralston but the object of contempt in the eyes of her husband. Mrs. Boyle (Lucy Poirier) is an elderly, demanding scoundrel of a woman. Miss Casewell (Nancy Flores) is a mysterious young traveler with little concern for stability and attachment. And Mr. Paravacini (Frank Vince) is an unexpected houseguest who shares many of the same disturbing attributes as the young Christopher Wren, though he fails to endear himself with Mrs. Ralston.

Tensions rise when police Sgt. Trotter (R. Brett Rohrer) arrives at the manor and alerts everyone that the London killer has targeted two of them--particularly after somebody gets killed. Accusations and suspicions escalate as everyone focuses their efforts on identifying both the murderer and his next target.

While the play is both whimsical and lighthearted--there is quite a bit of humor saturating what might otherwise be a dull, somber mystery--it feels equally hurried and unnecessarily convoluted. Only during the latter part of Act 2 are pertinent revelations unveiled--and the revelations don't push the play forward. While the killer's identity and motive are certainly a surprise and provide the much ballyhooed plot twist, the circumstances and story momentum are disappointingly ill-conceived and rather contrived.

This uneven story line is salvaged by some notable performances. Zeeks' Christopher Wren is unnerving and outlandish, yet he still manages to elicit sympathy and exert childish charm, while Vince's Paravacini is simultaneously haunting and sage. Still, even fine performances don't overshadow such an uneven plot and unsatisfying ending--and this mystery leaves much to be desired.

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