Reviewed by Jon R. Coggins
On this brisk February evening Clio Cast and Crew opened their latest offering, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. This play first opened in London’s West End in 1952 and has been running continuously since. It is and has been an oft-used community theatre staple.
Let’s get started. The set was magnificent. The English Cottage guesthouse offered many levels, nice color scheme and a lot of exits and entrances. There were no scene changes and few light cues. Costumes were incredible. I’m certainly not an expert on costuming, but they all seemed period and personally correct. (That is they worked for the character so costumed)
The setting, as mentioned above, was an old English Country guesthouse just after WWII. Eight people from different backgrounds and different locales find themselves stranded here by a fierce snowstorm. A murder is committed. An investigation and fun begins. Christie is the master of the red herring, the subtle clue, and the surprise ending. This show has it all.
As with any theatrical production – the key to success lives and dies with the cast. With his usual aplomb, director William Kircher has assembled an excellent ensemble. Everyone shined. Characters were developed and consistency was observed.
The play begins with the entrance of Mollie Ralston, the lady of the manor, as she sets about getting ready for their first batch of travelers. Played nicely by Rebecca Norris, Mollie was tough, resolute and kind. Gracious to her boarders yet not afraid to get her hackles up. Accents were a mixed bag, though all – right or wrong – were consistent. Rebecca’s accent was fine.
Close on her heels was hubby Giles Ralston, her one-year married mate. Played by Jeff Rogner, Giles had the best and purest accent. He was a staid, strong and comforting host and also not afraid to speak his mind. This character tends to anchor the cast and Jeff handled it well.
A crowd favorite – Preston Sannicolas – playing the peculiar Christopher Wren, was sprightly, energetic, disheveled and delightful. My companion for the evening called him “creepily mysterious”.
Hot on his heels was Mrs. Boyle, played by Karen Fenech. Boyle was a widower, traveling around Europe after the war and seemed a lost soul. She was stiff, arrogant and had an air of faux nobility. Though Fenech played this character very well, I had a hard time hearing her voice. The teacher in me suspects her vocals were coming from her throat and not her diaphragm.
The next suspect – er – I mean cast member was Nick Weiss, as Major Metcalf. Weiss had a booming voice (which I suspect was a put on) and played the deprecating consort to Mrs. Boyle. He kept in the background, loved architecture and thoroughly explored the Manor. He was another fine casting choice.
Next up was Miss Casewell played by Pam Beauchamp. She was cold, aloof and of course mysterious. Her accent was indeterminate as befitted the character. Casewell was another audience favorite with her droll observations and stinging bon mots. My one complaint/concern was her face. Was the startlingly white complexion a character choice or bad make-up? Beauchamp’s hands were a healthy pink belying the stark white complexion.
The last guest to arrive, unplanned and with no reservation, was Mr. Paravicini, delightfully played by Bill Vanaman. This character helped to move the narrative along and on several occasions summed up the crisis to date. Vanaman was extremely animated, had a terrific accent and as my seatmate summed up – crazy mysterious. His manner, makeup and backstory made him a tremendous red herring. Or did it??
The last cast member to arrive was Sergeant Trotter played by Shane Wachowicz. Trotter was sent to the manor, on skis as all roads were blocked, to investigate the nearby murder. Wachowicz struts around, interrogating the guests and hosts as he tries to solve the murder and prevent additional mayhem. His accent was off, though I understand he’s been under the weather. Still, he played Trotter to the hilt.
Also noted in the cast was Kevin Proffitt – the radio announcer who kept us abreast of the storm and the murder investigation.
A couple of oddities before I reveal the ending: in the beginning there was no wood in the wood basket although a huge fire was aglow. Also no one had any snow on them, even coming from outside in a fierce blizzard.
And now the big reveal – the killer was ____________________________. PLEASE, you don’t think this humble reviewer would give away the ending! If you want to see a great show in a swell venue, go see Clio Cast and Crew’s The Mousetrap.
A tried and true theatre classic, it is handled very nicely by William Kircher and company. It continues through this weekend and next – February 16, 22, 23, at 7:30 pm and February 17, 24 at 2:30 pm at Theatre 57, 2220 W. Vienna Rd. Clio. For more information contact the box office at 810-687-2588 or online at www.cliocastandcrew.com