By Ken Stern 

Go get caught by 'The Mousetrap'

Theatre review


October 4, 2023

Over ominous music playing in a darkened theatre a scream shrieks out. When the curtains open onto an early 1950s English inn’s sitting room, the news on the radio is of a murder of a woman in London. But that is hardly background noise even after the headline in the day’s newspaper is read by an arriving guest, Mrs. Boyle (Beth Morgan-Cleland), one of an ensemble cast, each actor well defining his or her unique characters and thus standing out individually.

Five guests will soon be greeted by Mollie (Amanda Wells) and Giles (Rob Hanson) Ralston, owners of the newly opened Monkswell Manor. But, besides Mrs. Boyle and Christopher Wren (Mike Riverun) getting on each other’s nerves, as the tics of each guest’s personality is annoying to the others, they are all upset by the unexpected arrival on skis of detective Sargeant Trotter (Dale Aspelund). He has come in the midst of a record-breaking snowfall (great set design and technique from Jim Reeder) in pursuit of the woman’s killer. He tells the group: two of the guests will die. “One of you is a killer,” he says matter-of-factly. They are all suspects in a murder case.

Welcome to “The Mousetrap,” Agatha Christie’s 1952 play in performance at Anacortes Community Theatre weekends through Oct. 14.

Trotter has evidence, in the music to “Three Blind Mice,” informing him that three connected killings is the murderer’s goal, vengeance sought by one of two abused brothers from a foster care couple the boys had lived with years earlier.

“Mousetrap” has echoes of the board game Clue. Each character is defined by rooms they repeatedly go to, but instead of a variety of weapons what could each’s specific motive be? And, obviously strangers to each other, how could some have a link to the past abuse?

This energetic and well-paced production has the cast moving on and off stage, into the drawing room, the dining room, the library, the basement and out the front door. And, Trotter came in throught the sitting room’s window.

As each visitor arrived, they momentarily stepped out of the play to share something of themselves. Are they offering clues to their past or their reason for coming to the inn?

There is Major Metcalf (Jim Weaver), the bearded retired military officer. Miss Casewell (Emmy Bateman) says she is 25. She lives abroad. What brought her back? Only Mr. Paravicini (Keving Cobley) seems an accidental tourist. His car overturned in a snowdrift so he sought nearby shelter. But neither he nor anyone else can call for help: someone cut the telephone wires.

The guests and the Ralstons are united in disliking the snobbish, criticizing Mrs. Boyle. She suggests to Giles that she could leave early. He agrees. She stays. Paravicini whistles the “Three Blind Mice” tune and says, yes, he was playing it on the drawing room piano. There is distinct tension among the guests.

Then, a hand reaches out from the dining room and turns off the lights. Then screams, and another victim, a guest murdered and lying on the sofa. Just like that. Then, intermission.

On the radio the announcer shares a detail from the scene of the crime: the escaping murderer was wearing a black overcoat, a fedora and a light scarf. Ralston has a dark overcoat and a copy of the London Evening News in the pocket.

Trotter continues his investigation, questioning each, alone or in combinations. His inquiry into each of the Ralstons surreptitiously going to London the day before has them doubting their married partner on the eve of their first anniversary. “I don’t know you.” “You don’t know me,” they exchange, though earlier there had been hugs by the fireplace.

The tension increases with the interrogation. Everyone is unnerved. Who will be killed? Who is the killer?

The world’s longest running play, for over 70 years at a London theatre, has a tradition with every performance: the audience is asked not to reveal the ending. You will have to see for yourself.

Shelter Bay resident Paul Fadoul ably directs the cast. Jim Reeder designed the set and lighting, using some items from Nasty Jack’s. The production team’s strong support showed in Saturday night’s performance.

“The Mousetrap” plays through Oct. 14. Tickets and times:


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