The Mousetrap is sprung at Ross Valley Players

Near-revelatory instant in “The Mousetrap” features (from left) Maria Mekhenyenko as Miss Casewell, Steve Price as Major Metcalf and Heather Buck as Molly Ralston. Photo by Robin Jackson.

The Mousetrap: Mystery by Agatha Christie. Directed by Adrian Elfenbaum. Ross Valley Players Barn Theatre at the Marin Art & Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Ross. For tickets, call 415-456-9555, ext. 1 or go to https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4315813 www.rossvalleyplayers.com.

September 13 – October 13, 2019 

The Mousetrap is sprung at Ross Valley Players Rating: ★★★☆☆1/2

When a play is first professionally produced there is a finite run before it is passed on to the community theatres. Agatha Christie’s The MouseTrap defies that truism and is still running on London’s West End since its opening in 1952. Ross Valley Players’ (RVP) mounting of that classic will remain on the boards until October 13 after its opening on Friday night.  Oddly director Adrian Elfenbaum and RVP’s exuberant staging has injected farce into the intricate whodunit thus diluting the mystery. Never-the-less it is an exuberant production that charmed the audience and if you have not seen the play it earns a “should see” rating.

The show being an English mystery could suggest “The Butler did it!” However, there is no butler limiting your choices to seven of the eight characters. The other is murdered in the dark halfway through act one and there is strong suggestion that there will a third since the title is based on the musical ditty “Three Blind Mice.”

Agatha Christie can be infuriating with her inclusion of false leads that sometimes are obtuse yet appear clever. Typical of her mysteries the location is an isolated area where the characters are trapped for a finite period without contact to the outside world. The setting is the countryside Monkswell Manor Guest House a newly converted mansion run by a young inexperienced couple, Mollie (Heather Buck) and Giles (Evan Held) Ralston.  Snow has been falling and when the expected and unexpected guests arrive and they are isolated especially since someone has cut the outside telephone. The time is Post World War II and there are no cell phones.

A radio news report announces the murder of Mrs. Maureen Lyon in London by a man wearing a dark overcoat, light scarf and a soft felt hat. Giles enters wearing the exact clothing described in the news broadcast and two other men make their entrance with similar clothing.

The first to arrive is Christopher Wren (Andre Amarotico ) a hyperactive young man wearing flamboyant clothing to match his personality.  Mollie and Christopher oddly, to Giles’ dissatisfaction, bond.  Next to arrive are Mrs. Boyle (Tori Truss) and Major Metcalf (Steve Price) who had to share a cab from the train station.  Elderly Mrs. Boyle is a demanding busybody finding fault with everything. Old soldier Major Metcalf is a stabilizing influence. The next invited guest is the manish-looking Miss Caswell (Maria Mikheyenko) who has lived abroad since early childhood and is wearing the exact external clothing described earlier.  Then there is the uninvited guest Mr. Paravicini (Robert Molossi) whose car is stuck in snow. He is affecting a foreign accent and is wearing makeup to artificially make him look older and refuses to answer direct questions.

With all the suspects in place Detective Sargent Trotter (Steven Samp) arrives on skis in a snow storm to “protect” and question all about the London murder. Layer by layer Christie allows the questioning by Trotter to shed light on all her character’s past lives. As mentioned Mrs. Boyle is “offed” in act one but her relationship is pivotal to the murders and Tori Truss nails the part. Steven Samp as Detective Trotter has a problem conveying strength to the role that should dominate the stage. Director Elfenbaum allows Andre Amarotico as Christopher to give an English version of Groucho Marx’s performance in “A Night at the Opera.” Heather Buck gives a superb performance as Mollie and is almost matched by Evan Held as he husband. Robert Molossi as Paravicini gives that character the proper ambiguity needed. Maria Mikheyenko’s underplaying of androgynous Miss Caswell deserves an Obie Award. Steve Price as Major Metcalf  physically fits the part beautifully even though his British accent fluctuates widely.

The beautiful set by Tom O’Brien and Dhyanis Carniglia along with properties created by Marguerite Finney make this RVP production worth a visit. Lighting and sound cues need refining but that will surely be corrected as the show continues. Running time is two hours and 20 minutes with an intermission.

CAST: Heather Buck as Mollie Ralston; Evan Held as Giles Ralston; Andre Amarotico  as Christopher Wren; Tori Truss as Mrs. Boyle; Steve Price as Major Metcalf;  Maria Mikheyenko as Miss Casewell;  Robert Molossi  as Mr. Paravicini; Steven Samp as Detective Sergeant Trotter;  Julia Norton as Voice on the Radio.

CREATIVE TEAM: Director Adrian Elfenbaum; Stage Manager Ben Vasquez; Properties Design Marguerite Finney; Scenic Artist Dhyanis Carniglia; Sound Design Billie Cox; Set Design       Tom O’Brien; Lighting Design Drew Yerys; Costume Design Michael A. Berg; Set Construction Michael Walraven; Dialect Coach Lynne Soffer.

Kedar Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com