Play: The Mousetrap
Company: Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Venue: Browning Mainstage, Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Road
Dates: Through Dec. 29
Tickets: $20-$76; 968-4925 or repstl.org
Rating: A 5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Story: Mollie Ralston is putting the finishing touches on her new guest lodge, Monkswell Manor, with the assistance of her dutiful husband of one year, Giles. Their place is situated about 30 miles from London, where a grisly murder has been reported. A radio report describes the killer as wearing a dark coat, light scarf and soft felt hat, all of which happen to match Giles’ outdoor attire.
As the guests arrive at Monkswell Manor, it becomes apparent that all of them are dressed in dark coats, white scarves and soft felt hats in the fierce snowstorm outside. First to appear is a twitching, eccentric young man, Christopher Wren. Stuffy, imperious Mrs. Boyle then checks in, followed by the amiable military man, Major Metcalf. Last to appear is Miss Casewell, a fit young woman whose slacks seem just a bit odd in 1952.
While Mollie and Giles welcome their lodgers, a refugee from the storm, Mr. Paravicini, claims that his car has overturned down the road. A young police officer, Detective Sgt. Trotter, also arrives, saying he’s been dispatched because there is suspicion that another murder will be committed soon, and at Monkswell Manor, specifically.
Wouldn’t you know it? Shortly thereafter, someone at the lodge is indeed the victim of foul play. Who might be next, and who might the killer be?
Highlights: Dame Agatha Christie told a colleague that her nifty little play would probably last eight months when it debuted in London’s West End in November 1952. She was off by at least 60 years, four months and counting. The Mousetrap is the longest-running play in history, racking up more than 25,000 performances since its opening.
In the tradition of the famed whodunit’s production, audience members are asked at the show’s conclusion not to reveal the identity of the murderer. Part of the fun, after all, is trying to figure out who the killer is. What can be mentioned, however, is how thoroughly delightful The Rep’s holiday rendition is, with director Paul Mason Barnes providing a hearty evening of entertainment throughout its leisurely two acts and two hours, 30 minutes of running time.
The players in this piece appear to be having as much fun as the audience. Darrie Lawrence is properly haughty and unpleasant as the prim magistrate, Mrs. Boyle; while Ellen Adair is ideal as the sweet and earnest Mollie, who brings a troubled history to her marriage and her new occupation. William Connell conveys Giles as a faithful husband who might just be too slick to be what he seems. As Christopher, Sean Mellott revels in the opportunity to cackle and cavort in unseemly fashion befitting the bizarre young architect.
Michael James Reed fully embodies the stiff-upper-lip demeanor of the middle-aged Major Metcalf, while Tarah Flanagan keeps her cards close to her vest as the mysterious Miss Casewell. Larry Paulsen delights as the flamboyant Paravicini. And as Detective Sgt. Trotter, Christian Pedersen carries himself as you’d expect an intrepid young policeman to be while investigating a terrible crime.
The Mousetrap isn’t Shakespeare or Miller or Williams. It is, though, a ‘ripping yarn’ that is jolly good entertainment for the holiday season. Enjoy the proceedings, but don’t give away the ending.