Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap | The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The-Mousetrap 75They’ll keep doing the show, if their audiences continue to keep the identity of the murderer a secret.

The-Mousetrap 500

Three blind mice. Three blind mice.

See how they run. See how they run.

They all ran after the farmer’s wife,

Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,

Did you ever see such a sight in your life,

As three blind mice?

When I stop and consider the words of old, catchy nursery rhymes like the one above, I’m always surprised at how darkly laced these lyrics that are recited to children really are. But once you hear them, they’re stuck. You’ll find yourself humming, whistling, and singing the eerie tunes. But that factor is what makes them the perfect inclusion in a mystery.  

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is a good ol’ fashion whodunit, with a cornucopia of peculiar elements — like the repeated mention of the Three Blind Mice — for the viewer to absorb in his or her attempt to solve the murder mystery.

Of course, it would be a crime to reveal too much of the tale. The Mousetrap is celebrating its 61st anniversary, making it the world’s longest running production. The show prides itself in what by the end is one big audience-cast confidentiality agreement. They’ll keep doing the show, if their audiences continue to keep the identity of the murderer a secret.

I can, however, tell you what The Mousetrap is working with. Giles and Mollie Ralston (Ellen Adair and William Connell) have not yet been married a full year and have decided to open a guest house, called Monkswell Manor. (It is immediately clear that this idea was Mollie’s concoction, as Giles is hardly thrilled). The show’s foreshadowing begins immediately. 30 minutes in and the audience has a list of comments that suggest the entire undertaking will be ill-fated. For one, there is the manor’s sign. The paint of the red letters dripped, causing the sign to look as though it is advertising a blood-filled haunted house rather than a home away from home. Secondly, the couple mentions that no background checks were done on the guests — amateurs. And, possibly the most foretelling are the guests themselves. There are five of them: Christopher Wren (Sean Mellott), who is extremely eccentric and child-like in nature; Mrs. Boyle (Darrie Lawrence), an older, snooty woman with high expectations; Mayor Metcalf, who we never truly learn much about; Miss Casewell (Tarah Flanagan) the type of woman who wears pants instead of dresses; and lastly Mr. Paravicini (Larry Paulsen), a heavy-accented guest who shows up without a reservation. It is immediately clear that the couple is in over their heads, but there’s nothing they can do about it because they’re snowed in.

Oh, and there’s one other thing: just before the guests arrived, a murder occurred in town and the suspected killer is on the loose. This threat causes Detective Sergeant Trotter to ski his way to the manor, warning Giles, Mollie, and guests that the killer could be among them. As I mentioned, this is a murder mystery, so as it turns out Trotter’s presence makes little difference, as someone will die and the rest of the play will be spent throwing around accusations in attempt to identify the killer.

The Mousetrap is a wonderful play for the winter season, especially when there’s snow blowing around the theater just as there is the manor within the play. The stage design is impeccable. Even though the action of the play takes place only in the living room of the manor, the elaborate furniture is enough for the imagination to see the stage as one room of an immensely grand and cozy home. The production value, in my opinion, was so high that it wasn’t at all difficult to suspend my disbelief. There was a constant snow gust sound in the background and when people entered the house, or even opened a window, it was clear that it was absolutely freezing outside — a feeling the entire audience could relate to.

The acting is over the top, but that’s what makes the characters so fabulous and separates them from one another. Many of them actually reminded me of feature film actors and actresses, which I mean as a high compliment. For example, Mollie reminded me of Rachel McAdams, Sergeant Trotter of The Dark Knight’s Aaron Eckhart. There were a few instances during the production, though, when I felt that the interaction between these strong characters was a bit weak, their disdain for one another not entirely palpable. Other than that, the only complaint I have isn’t actually toward anyone other than Agatha Christie herself: this is a two and a half hour play that for the antsy audience member is about 45 minutes too long. But just remember, it’s the middle of December; the only thing waiting outside for you is slick pavement and harsh winds, so it’s in your best interest to just sit back and enjoy. | Megan Washausen

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap runs through Dec. 29. Visit www.repstl.org for more information.

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