The most important decision to make when staging a theatrical production is whether or not the play is worth staging. Apparently, Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap is quite appropriate for a feckless theater-going audience.***image2***
The Mousetrap is the longest-running play in modern history. Those bloody redcoats across the pond have been intrigued with this particular drama for more than 50 years, though why remains a mystery.
Eight mysterious figures gather one cold evening at Monkswell Manor Guesthouse. As the theater house lights go down, a muted old recording of a death scream is barely audible and the audience laughs. The incessant whistling of the children's nursery rhyme "Three Blind Mice" takes center stage and never ceases. It is announced, on the radio, that a murder has been committed in the area and the killer is on the loose. One by one every character enters the front door frocked in the same soft trench coat, white scarf and felt hat: the attire of the murderer in question.
One by one, each character is given enough time on stage to establish his/her idiosyncrasies and the reason why he/she has come to the guesthouse during a blizzard that prevents anyone from leaving. The play supposedly builds suspense toward the end of the first act, when a murder is committed with less alarm than fanfare. The second act consists of the investigation and, when the end is reached and it is revealed whodunit there is relief that the play is finally over.
An artistic representation of a murder mystery should never be taken seriously. Especially a murder mystery by Agatha Christie. The whole point of her art is to determine how stupid the reader, or in this case, the audience member, really is. Christie's script is rife with all of her nitwit wit, rude charm and incomprehensible English quibble. The most challenging aspect of the Santa Fe Playhouse's production is having all eight actors prove they are not working on their worst English accent. The dialogue would have run better with a Portuguese accent.
***image1***Nevertheless, the stage production is excellent for those who desire that nothing is left to the imagination. As for the cast, let's break it down: Mollie Ralston (Amy Johnson), the female half of the couple that operates the guesthouse, can really step across a stage when she thinks she has to. Giles Ralston (Matt Sanford), the male half, sheds light and depth into his character and keeps the pace upbeat with his presence. Christopher Wren (Douglas Pickens), a naughty, spoiled little chap, dominates the stage with his quirky, precise representation of a possible psycho. Mrs. Boyle (Virginia Hall-Smith) is an old bag; thank God she gets killed at the end of the first act. Major Metcalf (Jake Mulliken), is a retired army stiff, but who really cares? Miss Casewell (Meg Gold), has a bad attitude and she would be better off acting like she can't act. Mr. Paravicini (Nate Patrus), a quixotic hybrid of the Super Mario Bros. and a crackhead whose constant tucked-in elbows and bad makeup make him look like a marionette on stage, spouts a foreign accent of no discernible quality. And Sergeant Trotter (Mark Hisler), the inspector, is the reason the play doesn't work.
There is nothing suspenseful or mysterious about The Mousetrap other than the drawn-out scene changes. The climax of the play is like a stifled orgasm. It is a good production for people who don't want to think about their art and who could care less about dropping $15 for a night in which the only sense of a mousetrap is the audience member who subjects himself to the rest of the play.