The Mousetrap Weaves a Labyrinthine
- Powder & Wig presents Pirandello’s Henry IV
- Theater and Dance present student shows at New Works Festival
- Conner launches Practicum
This past weekend, Powder and Wig unveiled its latest production: Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. As with most works by Christie, the show is a labyrinthine mass of plot twists and red herrings designed to keep the audience guessing the show's outcome right up until the very end. The basic premise is this: a young, recently married couple named Mollie and Giles Ralston run a guesthouse in rural England. One night, as a massive snowstorm strikes, five very different and peculiar guests arrive just as news gets out that there has been a murder in London and the killer is on the loose. A police detective arrives (on skis, no less) and informs everyone that the murderer left behind a note indicating that he is headed to that very guesthouse to kill again. Cue the ominous music!
Many of Christie's murder mysteries (including classics like And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express) require a rather ridiculous premise in order to set up what then becomes a crackling good yarn. The Mousetrap proved to be no exception. Once the story really got going--around the time of the detective's arrival--it stayed going, all the way until the play's signature twist ending.
The show's director, Cecilia Cancellieri '11, staged the show skillfully. Though all of the action takes place in a single room, it never once felt contained by its setting. Things were always happening, and the blocking made effective use of the small set. Cancellieri also made the excellent choice to amp up the show's humor by staging much of it with a grin and a wink. Any show that is 60 years old is bound to be a bit dated, and playing The Mousetrap completely straight probably would have made that obvious. Instead, aspects of the show that would today not be so warmly received, like its casual sexism or more absurd plot points, became highlights when played for laughs. It must be emphasized, however, that the humor did not undercut the genuine mystery and tension that the show built up around its search for the killer.
The cast deserves much credit for so successfully selling the material. The ensemble was uniformly superb. Many of the characters in the play were fairly one-note; they came across more as types than as real people (which is another characteristic of Christie's work). The actors, however, took that as an opportunity to gleefully grab their roles and play them to the hilt. Tyler Parrott '13 and Dan Echt '11 were especially entertaining. Parrott's character Christopher, a somewhat mentally unbalanced young architect--or IS he?--was arguably the most eccentric person on stage. Christopher could have come across as annoying, but Parrott's portrayal of him, rocking back and forth on his heels and bursting into fits of giggles like a five year-old being tickled, made him lovably endearing. The same goes for Echt, who played an old Russian stockbroker--or IS he?--with a similar level of bravado, eliciting chuckles from the audience every time he came onstage.
But then again, everyone on stage looked like they were having a ball, and their enthusiasm was positively infectious. I spent most of the show with a silly grin on my face; the rest of the time I was whispering theories about what was going to happen next to the person sitting beside me. Every character had a moment or three to shine. As soon as one person stole the show, someone else would swoop in to steal it back. Andrew Bolduc '10, for example, is probably the only person at Colby who could get a huge laugh--twice--just from smoking a pipe.
There are two other performances in particular that warrant mentioning. Sally Meehan '12, making her Powder and Wig debut as Mrs. Ralston, was marvelous. She made Mrs. Ralston into a fully developed character and provided a welcome touch of humanity to a show that, by design, maintains a certain amount of aloofness. Here's hoping she takes to the stage again soon. Michael Trottier '12 was also highly effective as the detective. I can imagine that it's a tricky part to play (for reasons I can't fully discuss), and he handled it with absolute assurance.
The Mousetrap is not particularly philosophical or "deep"--but then again, it never tries to be. All it aspires to be is a good, solid mystery and enjoyable piece of entertainment. It's an important reminder, I think. Sometimes, plays don't need to be making some sort of grand statement or serve some sort of higher purpose. Sometimes, they can just be about having a rollicking fun time for a couple of hours. In that regard, The Mousetrap delivered in spades.