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As I am still busy working in a production up in Carmel, I recruited my good friend Mark Kamish to see and review Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap at IRT. Mark is a lawyer, a stage actor and very active in voice acting for commercials and audio books. Here is his review:

Ken Klingenmeier does a great service for our Indy theater community with countless reviews found here in his “A Seat on the Aisle” blog. I was happy to pinch hit for Ken Saturday and literally took a seat on the aisle at the Indiana Repertory Theatre to enjoy an evening of humor and suspense with Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.

Ryan Artzberger and Cassandra Bissell

RYAN ARTZBERGER (Giles Ralston) and CASSANDRA BISSELL (Molly Ralston) in IRT’s production of “The Mousetrap” by Agatha Christie.

Surprisingly, I had never before seen this particular crown jewel penned by the “Queen of Crime.” I say surprisingly because The Mousetrap is the world’s longest running stage play of any kind. Now in its 64th year, The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End in 1952, and has been running continuously ever since. One marvels at how, more than 26,000 performances later, this humorous and suspenseful whodunit remains such a timeless and crowd-pleasing thriller. Dame Christie herself marveled at the show’s popularity. Never considering it her finest work, when asked once why The Mousetrap had been so successful, Christie replied, “People like it, but who can say why?”

Jen Johansen and Jan Lucas

JAN LUCAS (Mrs. Boyle) and JENNIFER JOHANSEN (Miss Casewell) in IRT’s production of “The Mousetrap” by Agatha Christie.

I’m not sure I can say definitively either, but IRT’s final production of this 2015-2016 season was a delight to witness. To begin, the gorgeous set by scenic designer Robert M. Koharchik is breathtaking. Since the script confines onstage action to a single setting (the recently-opened guesthouse Monkswell Manor), Koharchik’s design creates the look and feel of what the great halls of English manor houses must have looked like in the 1950s – filled with more detail and grandeur than the eye can even fully capture in slightly over two hours.

Certainly Christie’s script has a lot to do with the show’s appeal: a houseful of strangers trapped by a blizzard and stalked by an unknown murderer among them. Part parlor comedy, part murder mystery, the dialogue is crisp and lively as we are introduced to eight people in Act I (down to seven by intermission) and are taken on a ride of twists and surprises in Act II, leading to the climactic conclusion.

Cassandra Bissell and Charles Pasternak

CASSANDRA BISSELL (Molly Ralston) and CHARLES PASTERNAK (Det. Sgt. Trotter) in IRT’s production of “The Mousetrap” by Agatha Christie.

Monkswell Manor is run by Mollie and Giles Ralston (Cassandra Bissell and Ryan Artzberger were perfectly paired), a newly-married couple who are soon joined by a motley assortment of boarders. “It seems very hard that all our guests should either be unpleasant or odd,” muses Mollie. They include the flamboyant and peculiar Christopher Wren (Jürgen Hooper made me smile a lot), the affable retired army officer Major Metcalf (Robert Neal), the persnickety old Mrs. Boyle (handled wonderfully by a younger Jan Lucas) and the rather masculine and hard-boiled Miss Casewell (well performed by Jennifer Johansen). Later, the group is also joined by Mr. Paravicini (an Italian gentleman believably played with accent and affect by Henry Woronicz) and Detective Sergeant Trotter of the Berkshire Police (Charles Pasternak), a serious young detective who has come to Monkswell Manor to investigate a recent murder elsewhere. And the murderer is still on the loose! Trotter’s pursuit of “the truth” shines a light on the power of false accusation in which everything is suspicious and everyone’s a suspect.

Charles Pasternak and Jurgen Hooper

CHARLES PASTERNAK (Det. Sgt. Trotter) and JÜRGEN HOOPER (Christopher Wren) in Irt’s production of “The Mousetrap” by Agatha Christie.

But the script alone could not carry this show without it being interpreted and performed by gifted artists. Great direction and a complimentary company of actors make a show like this work, and IRT’s production of The Mousetrap satisfies, in large part, because of the skill with which these artists at once individually embrace and portray the personalities of starkly-contrasted characters while bringing almost seamless and engaging interaction between those characters. Accents are sometimes tricky when attempted by casts this large, but British, Italian and even cockney accents were all pulled off consistently and believably by every member of this one.

Mousetrap IRT

ROBERT NEAL (Major Metcalf) and HENRY WORONICZ (Mr. Paravicini) in IRT’s production of “The Mousetrap” by Agatha Christie.

I’d also like to mention The Mousetrap marks Associate Artistic Director Courtney Sale’s final IRT production as she leaves Indianapolis for new audiences and challenges at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, where she will serve as artistic director. Thank you, Courtney, for April 4, 1968: Before We Forgot How to Dream, And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank, A Christmas Carol and the many other contributions you made to the Indianapolis theater scene over the past three years. We wish you well.

In keeping with the tradition of this show, each night, one actor from the company finishes the performance with a direct address to the audience: “Now you have seen The Mousetrap. You are our partners in crime, and we ask you to preserve the tradition by keeping the secret of whodunit locked in your hearts.” In return, the audience promises not to reveal the twist. I will keep that pledge.

So take the opportunity this month to find out for yourselves whodunit. This is a classic work by a great American playwright presented by an exceptional cast and crew. Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap continues its run through May 22. Find out more about the upcoming schedule and reserve your seats early by calling the Box Office at (317) 635-5252, or by heading to IRT’s website at http://www.irtlive.com.

  • – Photos by Zach Rosing
  • – Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
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