Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot is one we are now fairly familiar with, but Christie was one of the first to invent the rules and the requirements. A small group of strangers find themselves cut off from the outside world with a killer on the loose. In Christie's play, the time and location are the 1950s and a brand new guest house in the English countryside run by a newlywed couple, Mollie and Giles Ralston. A snowstorm cuts the owners and guests off from the rest of world. A police inspector arrives on the scene to tell the group that a killer is on the loose and he believes that someone in the guest house has a connection to the killer and will be his next victim. He also throws out the possibility that the killer is amongst them as well. None of the characters are quite what they seem. They all have secrets, which are hidden and revealed sparingly throughout the play. The fun of Christie's plot is in not just determining who the killer is but also who the next victim will be.
Christie has crafted interesting characters that represent a nice cross section of 1950s Britain. They are mostly all loners, which gives them good motive for either being the killer or becoming the next victim. While the dialogue can at times become a bit melodramatic in the wrong directorial hands, it is sharp and descriptive with moments of humor popping up to cut through the tension and suspense.
Director Michael Kary keeps his cast firmly in the period of the piece with excellent dialogue work and stunning costumes and hair and make-up designs (by Nola Yergen and Madison Kesterson, respectively) that perfectly evoke the time and locale. William H. Symington's set design is one of the best of his I've seen. The detail and depth of the design is impeccable and affords Kary plenty of space, levels, steps, and even some slightly hidden areas to stage the action with exceptional results. Claude Pensis' lighting portrays various times of day effortlessly with dark, blue nighttime effects full of shadows and detail that add to the suspense.
While the show is an ensemble piece, and everyone in the GCU production does good work, the parts of Mollie Ralston and Sergeant Trotter hold the show together and keep it moving along. Christine Ward does exceptional work as Mollie, the young woman who is slightly frazzled, not only because it's her first time running a guest house but because Trotter's appearance and proclamation make her realize that she really doesn't know anything about the people she is renting rooms to. Ralston's facial expressions and shifting vocal tones flawlessly project the inner fear Mollie has, not only in her suspicions about the guests but even when she begins to suspect her husband, since they've only been married a year.
Logan Barrett is perfectly authoritative as Trotter, who attempts to get the answers he (and the audience) needs to figure out exactly how the people at the guest house might be connected to the murderer and just which one of them the murderer is. Barrett has the gravitas and strength to make you believe he is a police sergeant. The combination of his layered yet determined performance with Kary´s succinct direction, which features the entire cast´s nuanced portrayals and adroit facial expressions, makes many of the confrontational lines that Barrett's character states, such as "One might think you're all guilty from the looks on your faces," pop and resonate.
As Mollie's husband Giles, Sean Lawrence projects the right tone of the hard working and loving husband who is just trying to make their dream of running a guest house a reality. He also has several humorous encounters with the always complaining Mrs. Boyle (Taylor Harrison, who instills the part with the perfect tone of a stern fussbudget and always unpleasant woman) and Christopher Wren (Addison Wead, who does well in portraying this childlike, nosey, innocent, peculiar and obnoxious young man, though he does almost cross the line at times into melodrama).
Fernando Ruiz projects an air of mystery and intrigue as Mr. Paravicini, an exotic European who is as shifty as his eyebrows and who never really answers any question that's asked of him. Ruiz has a lot of fun with the part, delivering his dialogue with relish. Marija Petovic evokes a keen sense of intrigue and mystery as the masculine, aloof Ms. Casewell and, as Major Metcalf, Andrew Dell takes an authoritative tone that turns a bit playful in the play's final moments. All eight GCU cast members are attentive and focused in their portrayals.
The Mousetrap may be over sixty years old, but Christie's attention to character and plot detail and her deliberately paced reveals make it a fun time. The GCU production's confident performances full of conviction, poised direction, and rich creative elements will allow you to simply sit back and enjoy the brilliance of Christie's carefully constructed thriller.
GCU's College of Fine Arts and Production's The Mousetrap runs at Grand Canyon University's Ethington Theatre through September 11th, 2016. The theatre is located at 3300 W. Camelback Road in Phoenix and ticket and performance information for this show and their upcoming productions can be found at www.gcu.edu/Upcoming-Events/The-Arts.php or by calling 602-639-8880.
Written by Agatha Christie