McCarter Theatre Center presents Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap directed by Adam Immerwahr. Christie is the “Queen of Crime”. Her novels have only been outsold by the Bible and Shakespeare. This post-war England murder mystery is the world’s longest-running play having opened in London’s West End in 1952.
Mollie (Jessica Bedford) and Giles Ralston (Adam Green) have been married for a year. We join these first-time innkeepers of the Monkswell Manor in the English countryside for their grand opening on the day of a snowstorm. While making last-minute preparations, Mollie hears on the radio that there was a murder on Culver Street in Paddington. Giles returns from shopping for chicken wire, and their four registered guests Christopher Wren (Andy Phelan), Mrs. Bole (Sandra Shipley), Major Metcalf (Graeme Malcolm), and Miss Casewell (Emily Young) are soon to follow. Then an unexpected guest, Mr. Paravicini (Thom Sesma), arrives after his car flips into a nearby snowbank. Subsequent to a phone call from the police superintendent, Detective Sergeant Trotter (Richard Gallagher) arrives to share that a murderer is most likely among them. Trotter’s now begins his investigation with this trapped group.
Andy Phelan, who plays the animated character Christopher Wren, performed with just the right amount of quirkiness to add wit without being over the top, and Thom Sesma fits right into the role of the colorful Mr. Paravicini. Both Phelan and Sesma were good “funny men” of this farce. On the opposite end of the spectrum were Sandra Shipley and Emily Young brilliantly playing the roles of strong women who were both blunt and stern. Bedford, Green, Malcolm, and Gallagher wonderfully rounded out the cast with easy-going personalities, but yet also created doubts in our minds. Director Adam Immerwahr helped keep the audience engaged through his attention to detail, sparking the senses, and his understanding of how to weave a tale involving comedy and mystery.
The first thing you will notice awaiting the start of the play is the curtain is white. Of course, there is a fantastic reason for this. The set will blow you away thanks to Alexander Dodge. The Great Hall of Monkswell Manor is abundant in Late Tudor details with mahogany wood paneling, a limestone mantel surrounding the oversized fireplace, and spectacular Gothic fretwork on the ceiling. The furniture, rugs, accessories and lighting further add to the look on an English manor. To cement the period, the tweeds, argyles, and women’s two-inch heel oxfords transport us back to the 1940s. Costume designer Jess Goldstein is on point with the colors and textures. Philip S. Rosenberg handled lighting perfectly by making certain scenes very dramatic, but also by subtly lighting outside the window where you can witness the time of day changing as the snow falls.
The Mousetrap is in classic form of Christie’s murder mysteries. It is very British, a closed group is presented, the detective is introduced, a series of distractions follows, the mystery is solved, and the story is wrapped up quickly. It is fun and entertaining for the entire family! An actor from the company finishes the performance with a direct address to the audience: “Now that you have seen The Mousetrap you are our partners in crime, and we ask you to keep the tradition by keeping the secret of whodunit locked in your hearts.” The Mousetrap has been set and will capture your attention from the first minute! Don’t miss it.
The Mousetrap plays until Sunday, March 27 on the Matthews Stage. Runtime is 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased online, by phone: 609-258-2787, or at the box office: 91 University Place, Princeton.
All photos taken by T. Charles Erickson.