We walked into the upstairs theatre in Warren and were immediately 20 degrees cooler, not just because of 2nd Story’s air conditioning but also by the large bay window with snow falling heavily on Trevor Elliot’s glorious set.
We are visiting Monkwell Manor Guest House, where young Mollie and Giles Ralston (Erin Elliott and Dillon Medina) are awaiting their first guests. They arrive one by one through the drifting snow. First is Christopher Wrenn (Ben Church), a young, eccentric and outspoken architect. Next is Mrs. Boyle (Paula Faber), a haughty, over-critical former magistrate. They are followed by Major Metcalf (F. William Oakes) and Miss Casewell (Erin Olson).
The final arrival is the only unexpected guest, Mr. Paravicini (Vince Petronio), an over-suave, eerie and mysterious guest who looks and moves like a vampire.
We learn that a woman in the area has been strangled and the suspect is headed for the guesthouse. Detective Sgt. Trotter (Ara Boghigian) arrives by skis to interrogate the guests. One may be the killer and another the victim. By the end of the first act, there is one less person in the house.
The play is filled with crisp British dialogue, but directors Ed Shea and Pat Hegnauer have chosen to use American accents. For those of us who have trouble with the King’s English, that is a plus.
Clues and red herrings are dropped all over the place, as suspicions switch from one character to the next.
Agatha Christie, who wrote the play back in 1952, holds the record for the longest running play of all time. And you don’t have to go to London to see it. 2nd Story’s two-hour, two-act play is as good as it gets.
The second act brings everyone together as Trotter interrogates each person, and their pasts are revealed and connections among them are uncovered. I can tell you that the butler didn’t do it. The Ralstons couldn’t afford one, much to the chagrin of the uppity Mrs. Boyle.
If you haven’t seen the play or, like us, haven’t seen it for years, it will take you to the final moments to put the puzzle together.
“The Mousetrap” is good, old-fashioned, whodunnit theatre. Its success depends on the actors’ abilities to make their characters interesting, and all eight actors succeed in this undertaking. This is true ensemble acting, with not a weak link in the chain, but I must single out two actors. Vince Petronio as Mr. Paravicini. Petronio has the ability to play any role, and he has many successes to his name at 2nd Story and other local theatres. He has the juiciest role in this one and runs away with it. Ben Church drives the other characters crazy as the in-your-face suspect, and he’ll drive you to laughter as he bounces around the stage.
This fun night of theatre is being performed in rep with Jack Sharkey’s spoof of murder mysteries, “The Murder Room,” performed on the same set through Sept. 1. We’ll have a review next week. Tickets are $25. Call 247-4200 for reservations.