|Ashley Kowzun, Jon Mulhearn, David Edwards, Thomas Leverton, Kevin Sebastian, |
Megan Davis and Alan Coates (CSC)
A popular expression, long dormant, is "See Paris and Die." Variations are numerous with "See Naples and Die" considered the original. It means, of course, in today's terms that something should be at the top of your bucket list. Theater fans, particularly fans of murder mysteries, or "whodunits" and the great mystery writer Agatha Christie have on their wish list the incredible Christie play "The Mousetrap." It is incredible because it premiered on the London stage in 1952 and is still running, 60 years later! Think you saw the movie? wrong. It has never been filmed. The stage producers secured the production rights with a guarantee that no film would be produced until six months after the end of the run! The play opened with rave reviews, e.g. The Daily Telegraph called it ''the cleverest murder mystery ever written for the British theater.'' Since then more than 10 million theater goers over 60 years have seen the original play making it the longest running show (of any type) of the modern era.
Here's the good news: New Jersey fans don't have to cross the Atlantic to see an absolutely first rate production of "The Mousetrap." The producers are now permitting productions outside London.This past weekend the very creative folks at Centenary Stage Company premiered their faithful version of "The Mousetrap." We saw the play in London in its 40th year and the production we saw this week in Hackettstown is the equal to London. First: the set is perfect, an impressive recreation of the Great Hall of a small English country inn by Emmy Award-winning set designer Bob Phillips. Second: There is the matter of the cast; perfect again, director Carl Wallnau has a terrific cast of eight, all but two are Equity professionals; and Third: the superior Agatha Christie "whodunit" plot with a twist ending, which the audience is traditionally asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre. So expect a minimum of plot details here.
The entire two act play takes place in the Great Hall at Monkswell Manor 30 miles outside London during the first day of operation as an Inn. The owner/operator's are a young married couple Giles (Jon Mulhearn) and Mollie Ralston (Megan Davis) sadly inexperienced in innkeeping. Their first paying guests are: Mrs. Boyle (Kathleen Huber), an elderly retired woman who is the "guest from hell"; the authoritatve Major Metcalf (Broadway veteran Alan Coates); Christopher Wren (Thomas Leverton) is a strange flamboyant young man with a weird laugh who is fascinated with the furniture and has something to hide; Miss Casewell (Ashley Kowzun) is a young English woman who lives abroad and claims she booked into the inn to enjoy the pastoral countryside; the last guest is Mr. Paravicini (David Edwards). As the area is hit with a major snow storm he arrives unexpectedly seeking shelter claiming his car overturned in the snow. Last to arrive is Detective Sergeant Trotter (Kevin Sebastian) investigating a Manor connection with a woman's murder the day before in London. The Ralston's and guests are all quick to realize that the killer may be among them.
After the guests settle in, Mollie (Megan Davis), feeling the stress of the occasion, offers this nervous comment to her husband Giles “all of our guests are unpleasant or odd.” Not the way they expected to start their life as innkeepers. Naturally, what follows, since this is a murder mystery, only provides more stress. Christie nicely keeps us guessing with a good number of "red herrings" right up to the closing moments.
All eight of the cast are excellent, however the acting skills of the senior members, Kathleen Huber, David Edwards and Alan Coates are particularly impressive. Of the younger members, Megan Davis as Mollie, at the center of most of the activity, is very effective.
Director Carl Wallnau, the Centenary Stage Company's artistic director, who scored big time with the wonderful comedy romp "Ladies Man" last year, repeats his winning ways with a terrific change of pace with this excellent production of "The Mousetrap." The London folks have to be pleased. You will be too.
Credit also to Wallnau's production staff including these keys members: Stage Manager - Kathryn China Hayzer, Set Design - Bob Phillips, Light Design - Ed Matthews, Sound Design - Colin Whitely, Costume Design - Julia Sharp.
Reviewed by Rick Busciglio October 11, 2012
“The Mousetrap” will be performed until October 21 in the Sitnik Theatre, in the Lackland Center on the campus of Centenary College, 715 Grand Avenue, Hackettstown, New Jersey. To purchase tickets or to find more information on any of the events listed, visit www.centenarystageco.org or call the box office at (908) 979-0900. Tickets for The Mousetrap range from $17.50 to 27.50 with discounts for students and seniors. Every Thursday night is “Family Night,” which offers a 2-for-1 rush ticket price when purchased at the door. Performance times are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. There is a 2 p.m. matinée Wednesday October 17th.
The Centenary Stage Company is a not-for-profit professional equity theatre, in residence at Centenary College, dedicated to serving as a cultural resource for audiences of the Skylands Region with professional music, theatre and dance events and arts education programs throughout the year. Performances at the Centenary Stage Company are made possible through the visionary support of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the NJ State Council on the Arts, and CSC members, friends and sponsors, including Premier Sponsor Heath Village, Silver Sponsors Hackettstown Regional Medical Center and The Holiday Inn, and Series sponsors, Fulton Bank, Mamas and Café Bacci, and Restaurant Village in Long Valley.