Mud Creek springs delightful ‘Mousetrap’

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

Like a 1980s ‘Hamlet,’ a play to catch a killer

By John Lyle Belden

On a quiet evening in an empty Broadway theater, a playwright sets up a very special reading of his new drama. It is exactly one year since, on opening night of his latest show, his fiancé died. It appeared to be suicide, but before this night is done, he will reveal who killed her.

This is “Rehearsal for Murder,” a clever early-80s TV movie (by Richard Levinson and William Link) adapted for the stage by D.D. Brooke and presented now by the Belfry Theatre of Hamilton County, directed by Diane Wilson.

Alex Dennison (Kelly Keller) has rented this house for the night, and explains to his young assistant, Sally (Anna E. Blower) what had happened the year before. It was an ill-fated opening night from the start. Monica Welles (Ameetha Widdershins), a B-movie actress seeking fame on the stage, had stirred controversy by missing a preview performance, and an article in that day’s Variety revealed she is secretly engaged to Alex. Still, director Lloyd Andrews (Alex Dantin) and producer Bella Lamb (Kim O’Mara) hope for the best, as Monica shares the stage with promising ingenue Karen Daniels (Olivia Carrier), popular comic Leo Gibbs (Eric Bowman) and handsome lead David Mathews (Gideon Roark).

Opening Night is a hit with the audience, but with the critics – not so much. This puts a damper on the after-party at Monica’s apartment, and as the guests leave, she also sends Alex home. But an hour or so later, she calls him at his apartment, insisting he return – then the phone goes dead. He arrives at her place to find she has apparently jumped from her upper-story window.

Concluding this convenient recap, Alex has Sally set things up, sends stagehand Ernie (Molly Kraus) home, and welcomes a mysterious man (Chris Taylor) who is to stay in the shadows to watch and ensure no one leaves. Then, the “suspects” make their way in for a play reading no one will forget.

Our cast also includes Diane Reed as a caterer; Mason Cordell Hardiman, Tanya Keller, and Richard Wilson as police; and Cindy Duncan as Ms. Santoro, who brings a truck loaded with a special stage set.

Can you guess how Alex knows it’s murder, and who the killer is?

This family-friendly whodunit is one of those shows that is both entertaining to watch and you can tell is fun for the actors to play. Portraying showbiz people, especially when suggesting they killed someone, allows for a lot of interesting scene-chewing but director Wilson and the cast don’t let it go to camp. Kelly Keller keeps a firm hold on proceedings as our host, with each of his cohorts believably portraying their Broadway archetypes. The pages from the reading play out like flashbacks, with Widdershins ghosting in to perform the script’s doomed leading lady.

Kudos to costumers Tanya Keller and Molly Kraus for finding the Barbara Mandrell-style wig for Monica, as well as Sally’s outfit, which helps solidify the ‘80s look. Best-dressed honors, however, go to Variety columnist Meg Jones, though she may be hard to spot.

I’m not good at mysteries, but if you haven’t seen this, it could have you guessing for a while, as well. Regardless, it’s fun to watch it all play out.  Remaining performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, at Ivy Tech Auditorium in Noblesville. Get tickets and info at

Belfry brings inspiring ‘Lilies’ to Noblesville stage

By John Lyle Belden

“What can just one man do?” “It’ll take a miracle!”

Such sentiments summon angels, and can herald an uplifting story like “The Lilies of the Field,” the play by Andrew Leslie based on the William E. Barrett novel that inspired the 1963 film starring Sidney Poitier. Now the “Lilies” grow in Noblesville, courtesy of the Belfry Theatre, directed by Linnea Leatherman.

In 1954, Homer Smith (DeJon LeTray Marshall-Fisher), freshly discharged from the Army, is done with having people tell him what to do. He outfits a nice station wagon and roams the American West, taking day jobs when he feels like it. In a remote valley in the Southwest, he comes across a farm being tended by several aging nuns in obvious need of help. He plans to just pitch in long enough to patch a roof, take a day’s pay and be on his way – but Mother Maria Marthe (Kim O’Mara), and perhaps a Higher Power, have other plans.

The Sisters have escaped from Communist East Germany and Hungary, and get little aid from the Church, attending Mass in a town a few miles down the road, at an old mission church led by young priest Father Gomez (Gideon Roark).  Smith’s race is of little consequence here, among the Germanic nuns and Latinix villagers – they just think he’s a little loco for taking on Mother Maria’s quest to build an adobe chapel on the site of a burned-out house. He’s not entirely certain how he got talked into it, himself.

The locals are represented in this play by Jose Gonzalez (Patrick Crowley), who runs the diner near Gomez’s church. We also meet rich construction contractor Orville Livingston (Gene Burnett), who helped settle the Sisters in the United States, and figured that would be the end of his obligation.

It is worth it to see this play just for the super-sweet and charming nuns under Mother Maria’s care, played joyfully by Jan Jamison, Judy McGroarty, Jan Borcherding, and especially Diane Reed as dear Sister Albertine. Their humor and exuberance — whether learning English, or singing “That Old Time Religion,” with the man they call “Schmidt” — shines through.

Borcherding also appears as a folksinger in a nice framing device for each Act.

Marshall-Fisher makes a very likable Smith with compulsive generosity, while stubborn at times, but not mean. O’Mara never cracks from the stern, stoic shell she creates for Mother Maria, but she’s far from heartless. Roark and Crowley’s characters seem to enjoy watching this unfold as much as we do. Burnett plays Livingston being as hard as the materials he builds with, but still human.

But that chapel — can one man really do it? Witness the “miracle” at Ivy Tech Auditorium, 300 N. 17th St., Noblesville, through March 27. Get info and tickets at

Civic brings Peanuts special to life

By John Lyle Belden

For some, “Good grief” is as much a part of the season as “Happy Holidays!”

For them, and children of all ages, there is “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” playing on select dates at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre. Directed by John Michael Goodson, this adaptation of the popular television special brings Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts” characters to life.

Following all the beats of the animated TV show, Charlie Brown (Max Andrew McCreary) feels depressed, this time regarding the oncoming holidays. Lucy (Mikayla Koharchik), in 5-cent psychiatrist mode, prescribes him directing the gang’s Christmas Program (which will star her as the Queen of Christmas, of course). With the help of Linus (John Kern), our hero eventually gets the meaning of the holiday, which he expresses by adopting the loneliest little Christmas tree.

The cast also includes Frankie Bolda as Sally, Emily Chrzanowski as Violet, Leah Hodson as Patty, Ethan Mathias as Schroeder, Alex Smith as Shermy, Alexandria Warfield as Frieda, and Gideon Roark as a surprisingly dignified Pig Pen. Also on the scene is Evan Wallace as the clever, hip, and ever-charming dog Snoopy.

This ensemble does an excellent job of enacting the characters’ motion from the mid-‘60s animation without mocking them — from Charlie’s footsteps, to bowled-over wild takes reminiscent of the comic strip, to Shermy’s incredible dance moves.  And backed by an actual jazz trio (CJ Warfield, Alex Nativi, Greg Wolff), the atmosphere is so cool you’d swear it was actually snowing.

The show doesn’t run very long, which is good for the attention spans of little theatre-goers, and concludes with a Christmas carol sing-along.

Performances are 10 a.m. and noon, Dec. 4, 11 and 18, and 7 p.m. on Dec. 5, on the Tarkington stage at the Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Carmel, right next to the ongoing Christkindlmarkt. For information and tickets, visit or