Theater

Performances make “The Mousetrap” at The Theater Barn

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Performances make “The Mousetrap” at The Theater Barn

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is not only her most well-known play, it’s the world’s longest-running play, and for good reason: it’s an excellent mystery, plotted and written well, with enough laughs and gasps to keep the audience intrigued and engaged throughout. Christie plays are audience-pleasers and always a sure draw for a theater, and the Theater Barn’s production is solid and bound to fill houses.

Thirty miles from London, Mollie and Giles Ralston (Sydney Berk and Adam Giannone) have just opened Monkswell Guest House and are a bit nervous about their first round of guests: Christopher Wren (Ali Bourzgui), a high-strung young man training to be an architect; Mrs. Boyle (Charlotte Harvey), an extremely negative retired solicitor; Major Metcalf (Sky Vogel), a retired military man; Miss Casewell (Cara Moretto), a mysterious woman from out of the country; and Mr. Paravincini (John Trainor), a foreigner who turns up needing a room. The group is trapped in the house by a sudden snowfall with a phone that no longer works when Detective Sergeant Trotter (Patrick Scholl) appears; there’s been a murder in London and the guest house residents are all in danger, as there’s proof the murderer wants two of them dead – and he (or she) is either on the way … or may already be among them.

Director Allen E. Phelps (also the theater’s artistic director) has done fine work here; the pacing is consistent throughout, each character is just shady enough that they could be the murderer right up until the very end and the characters are all interesting and very three-dimensional. Anthony Martin’s set design is lovely; Monkswell is just what you’d imagine for a 1950s British guest house a bit down on its luck, but with a lot of care put into it, and Karissa Monson’s lighting design is perfectly moody (and kudos for getting the scenes that needed to be blackouts sincerely blacked out – so much is ruined when you can see too much in the dark!)

Berk’s Mollie is excellent – she’s worked hard on the character and it shows. She’s never cartoonish, behaves much as any of us would in these situations and is very likable and enjoyable to watch. Giannone, proving he’s got both comedic and dramatic chops after his work in The Nerd on the same stage a few weeks ago, plays somewhat-stuffy Giles to perfection. Bourzgui is our comedic relief (and what fun he is), but shows a softer, sweeter side in an excellent scene late in the show with Berk; Harvey is that Negative Nelly everyone has at least one of in their lives and plays it beautifully. Scholl (who has more than a passing resemblance to a young Cary Elwes) gives his detective just the right amount of grit and glower.

Yes, of course the show’s been overdone, but if you’ve never seen it, this is a fine introduction, and if you have, it’s fun to go in knowing who the killer is and watching for clues as you go – and this production is some top-notch work.

“The Mousetrap”; The Theater Barn, 654 State Route 20, New Lebanon; through July 22; $29-$27; Run time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with a 15-minute intermission;518-794-8989; http://www.thetheatrebarn.org/

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