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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
Going to see The Mousetrap in London is as obligatory for the tourist as is seeing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Going to see it at the McCarter, if you've never seen it, can at least put you back in the conversation.
The play shows up regularly on the regional trail, at community theaters, and in schools across the country all the while earning the trust of the audience to not divulge whodunit.
As a fellow critic said to me after the show, "The Mousetrap is somehow always the same, never better, never worse and whether it is in a professional or amateur production. Now that's a mystery. So it is with the audiences who attend the production now in the large Matthews Theatre at the McCarter Theater Center.
The play begins as a blizzard rages outside the windows of the Grand Hall in an old manor house near London. It seems that Monkhouse Manor has recently been purchased and turned into a bed and breakfast by nervous newlyweds Mollie and Giles Ralston (Jessica Bedford and Adam Green.) The rooms have all been booked and the hosts are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first guests on their opening weekend. As we are right to suspect, they are in for some surprises from their guests, all of whom will be coming courtesy of central casting.
The stately Great Hall where the guests gather and also for the sake of the ever thickening plot has been handsomely designed by Alexander Dodge with an unusually high ceiling from which rows of weirdly architectural stalactites protrude suggesting rows of chessmen or the like. What it means is anybody's guess.
Although an announcement over the radio lets the hosts know that a ghastly murder has been committed nearby, they graciously welcome the arrivals each of whom makes a point of shaking off snowflakes on the floor. Unlike the silent movies of yore, we are grateful that a ferocious blast of snow doesn't follow each one of them, as each appears in turn either nuttier or more eccentric.
Mollie and Giles do their best to be cordial and accommodating to: a young fruity-to-a-fault architect (Andy Phelan) whose off-the-wall behavior is certifiable; the haughty and condescending Mrs. Boyle (Sandra Shipley) who remains until her (oops) in a constant state of disdain and/or umbrage; the highly energized/masculine-ized Miss Casewell (Emily Young), and Mr. Paravicini (Thom Sesma) the uninvited, scarily mysterious stranger with a foreign accent whose car got stuck in the snow. There is the one guest Major Metcalf (Graeme Malcolm) who appears to be free of any neurotic tendencies but that could be a sign of danger.
Of course there is the obligatory Detective Sergeant Trotter (Richard Gallagher) who braves the storm in order to announce that one or more of them is in mortal danger. Did I mention that the telephone lines are down and the roads are blocked?
Give Christie credit for piling on the red herrings so that every character gets a turn to earn our suspicions. Director Adam Immerwahr smartly allows his excellent cast to be amusingly quirky without being totally implausible. I was particularly impressed by the ingratiating performances of Bedford and Green, who are certainly also not above suspicion.
Whether or not you are fooled and/or surprised by the outcome, you will, I assure you, not be tempted to give away or share anything you have seen or heard. If the biggest mystery remains the mystery behind the success of The Mousetrap, it shouldn't stop you from trying to figure it out. . . like the rest of us.