Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's review of Big Fish
The Mousetrap is set in the English countryside within an hour or so of London at Monkswell Manor, which has recently been converted into a guesthouse run by a young married couple named Mollie and Giles Ralston. While waiting for their guests to arrive, Mollie hears a radio report about a nearby murder, and police are looking for a suspect wearing a dark overcoat and light hat. On their very first day in business, Mollie and Giles welcome their four scheduled guests, as well as one unexpected one. They receive a phone call from the police informing them that they may be in danger, with a murderer perhaps already in their midst. Despite a terrible snow storm a policeman arrives to assist them, but it is not long before one of the guests is dead, and as they are all trapped by the snow, the murderer must be someone in Monkswell manor. Revealing exactly who gets murdered and who commits the crime would be the worst of spoilers and something forbidden by Dame Agatha Christie.
There is no blood and gore in The Mousetrap, and it is not one of those pieces that keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense. It is more of an intellectual murder mystery puzzler written in the style so frequently seen in Christie's "Miss Marple" series, or copied later in "Murder She Wrote." The difference is that in this case the audience does the sleuthing. Though it stands the test of time, to be frank, the ending of the play is a bit soft for my taste. It feels very much like it needs a camera panning out and a music swell accompanied by a cut to rolling credits to flesh it out as a real ending. Perhaps this is a directorial issue, but in any case, it is my only complaint about the entire show. What makes Christie's work so interesting is her colorfully written unusual characters.
This Maltz production features broadly painted characters as interesting close up as they are far away. All of the actors provide layers to their portrayals that capture the attention of the audience, leading them to ponder the whys and wherefores of all their eccentricities in an attempt to discern possible motivation and guilt.
Eric Parks and the lovely Katherine Amadeo as Giles and Mollie must play it a bit as if they are the straight-men against the cast of guests in order to make the piece work. Richard Iverson turns in the most enjoyable performance as the flamboyant but socially awkward Christopher Wren. He captures the essence of a fascinatingly peculiar young architect who leaves the audience guessing what is going on inside his head. Gail Rastorfer is hard not to watch as businesswoman Miss Casewell, even in moments when she is not the center of attention. Her clean, masculine mannerisms and pointed stares that seem to look right through people make for compelling acting moments.
Barbara Bradshaw as retired magistrate Mrs. Boyle is the consummate fussy, wealthy older woman, whose constant complaining makes her oh, so unlikeable. Ronald Rusinek as Italian businessman Mr. Paravicini conjures up the kind of mysteriously suave villain found in an opera. Barry Tarallo as retired soldier Sgt. Metcalf seems to be the calmest of the guests, but what lies beneath that calm? Surely all of the characters, including Mollie and Giles, have their secrets. But finding out which of these secrets is tied to the murder is a job for only Sgt. Trotter, played by Christian Pedersen. Pedersen by default has some of the responsibility of driving the pacing of the show forward; and it moves along briskly with dialogue that feels quite genuine and natural given the setting.
Though this is no gripping drama, this production of The Mousetrap is filled with wonderfully constructed and acted stage characters, performed with such clarity that they live on after the curtain come down.
The Mousetrap will be appearing at Maltz Jupiter Theatre through November 8, 2015. Maltz Jupiter Theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, Florida. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-2223, 561/ 575-2223 or 800/ 445-1666, 800/ 445-1666 FREE, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
^Designates a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an independent national labor union.
+Designates member of the United Scenic Artists, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.