By Wendy Carson
Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” is the longest running play in the world. It opened in 1952 and ran continuously in London until a 14-month absence due to COVID, but is back thrilling audiences every night once again.
The show’s staying power is the strength of its story as well as the characters involved. Christie is known for wickedly cutting dialogue, and this script does not disappoint. Mud Creek Players now gives us the opportunity to get caught up in this “trap” here in Indiana.
The story seems somewhat simple at first – the classic whodunit. In the early 1950s, Mollie (Audrey West) and her husband Giles Ralston (Nicholas Gibbs) decide to turn their newly inherited Monkswell Manor in the English countryside into a lodging house. After a foreboding story of a murder is heard on the radio, the guests begin to appear, each more quirky than the one before.
Christopher Wren (Gideon Roark) is a hyper imp who claims to be an architect (named after the original Wren, famed church designer of the Baroque era). Snooty elitist Mrs. Boyle (Jennifer Poynter) is aptly described as a “perfectly horrible woman.” Major Metcalf (Jason Roll) frequently retreats offstage, and has all that he needs in his little bag. Also arriving is Miss Casewell (Zoe O’Haillin) with her macho attitude and unplacable accent.
There is also the unexpected guest, Italian-accented Mr. Paravicini (Jim Gryga) whose car may or may not have broken down in the snow. Oh yeah, there’s also a huge blizzard trapping everyone inside the house. Finally, Detective Sergeant Trotter (Mike Sosnowski) eventually arrives on skis to question everyone about the aforementioned murder.
When the first body drops in Monkswell, paranoia ramps up as it seems that everyone had the opportunity and motive to kill. A vital clue hints that another will soon die as well.
Director Kelly Keller has taken immense pleasure and care in preparing this exquisite mixture of laughs and chills. The cast aids with steady accents and lovely performances. West and Gibbs make a nice couple, but we see them acting a little secretive at first, and is Giles being suspicious or just showing his British stiff upper lip? Roark has Wren wear his dysfunction on his sleeve – which makes him both suspect and too scattered to have pulled off an elaborate crime. Poynter (a much nicer person offstage) seems to relish being perfectly dissatisfied with absolutely everything. Roll plays the Major as someone unusually curious about everything, but with an easy smile and cheerio attitude. O’Haillin may as well have “I have secrets” tattooed on Casewell’s forehead, and while not unfriendly is frequently on edge and chainsmoking (fake stage cigarettes). Gryga has the most entertaining role, as Paravicini is definitely up to something, and is charmingly up front about how untrustworthy he is, but murder? Sosnowski gives us an engaging “let’s go over this again” style detective, constantly reminding himself – and us in the audience – of the clues.
Genuine Brit Craig Kemp supplies the voice of the radio announcer, quite the honor for those who know “Mousetrap” lore.
Another aspect of this classic is Christie’s brilliant misdirection and final twist. Not only is it satisfying to discover the first time, audiences return with this knowledge to better appreciate the acting and character development. In fact, Mud Creek is offering a $5 discount on a subsequent ticket to the show. However, once you know, longstanding tradition (and Christie’s hatred of spoilers) demands you not tell a soul.
Performances run Thursday through Sunday through May 6 at the Mud Creek Barn, 9740 E. 86th St., Indianapolis. Info and tickets at MudCreekPlayers.org.