by Lynn Geyer
In 1947, Agatha Christie wrote a short radio play titled “Three Blind Mice,” in honor of Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s mother. The royal Mum was so impressed with Christie’s offering, she asked the author to make it into a stage play. The prolific playwright complied with “The Mousetrap” which opened in London’s West End in 1952, and has been running continuously ever since. It not only the longest running play in London’s theatre district but, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, in the world!
Therefore, it is appropriate that the Lakewood Playhouse, Washington’s second oldest theatre, opens its new season with this venerable theatre icon.
Christie’s tale is a simple story based on a true happening aided by her enormous imagination turning it into a drawing-room murder mystery with as many laughs as frights.
A recently married couple converts an inherited home into Monkswell Bed and Breakfast. Four guests arrive at the lodging one-by-one with an unexpected fifth arriving as a snow storm closes all access to the lodge.
The phone goes dead just before a local constable arrives with the news that a murderer is on the loose and there is evidence that the fiend is headed for Monkswell!
Christie has peppered her play with an eclectic cast of red herrings and more twists and turns than San Francisco’s Lombard Street, including the final swerving surprise ending.
Straying from last season’s in-the-round staging, James Venturini designed a beautiful, realistic set which takes up the full back wall of the intimate theatre. As the audience fills the seats on three sides, each member is crowded into the main room of the hotel, thus drawing them into the action.
Jason Burg’s fine lighting design accomplishes the sometimes eerie pall hanging over the stage. Diane Runkel costumed the cast perfectly to complete the period feel of the 1940’s.
Director John Munn, a Christie director of note, has outdone himself with this one. Each character is clean-cut and developed to a T. He moves his actors about the stage with believability and purpose. And what characters! The casting is superb.
Rachael Boyer and Mark Peterson are perfect as our hosts, Mollie and Giles Ralston, an innocent loving couple caught up in this mystery.
Syra Beth Puett is Mrs. Boyle. She plays the stately matron with the epitome of innocent grace, grandeur and grouchiness.
Michael Slease is Major Metcalf; the highly competent actor gives the major a wonderfully innocent bombastic portrayal.
Deya Ozburn plays Miss Casewell with innocent style emulating George Sand’s masculine dress.
Michael Dresdner is Mr. Paravicini, the innocent unexpected guest. Dresdner looks and acts the part with alacrity and mystery.
Christian Doyle is the late arriving Detective Sergeant Trotter who makes it to the snow-bound hotel on skis. Doyle plays the innocent officer exuding authority and speculation.
But Alex Smith as the innocent Christopher Wren steals the show with his portrayal of a Noel Coward character transplanted to a Christie mystery. He is delightfully flamboyant and so wonderfully over the top!
Or are they all so innocent?
“The Mousetrap” continues at the Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center through October 11; Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There is a Pay-What-You-Can night scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, September 24 and an actors’ benefit performance at 2 p.m. Saturday, October 10.
For reservations or more information, call the box office at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
Don’t forget to catch “The Mousetrap” at the Lakewood Playhouse and see if you can catch the killer before the trap catches you!