There are plenty of “Aha!” moments in Armstrong Atlantic State University’s production of the classic Agatha Christie mystery The Mousetrap.
Everyone’s guilty, and everyone’s innocent, and with each new stretch of dialogue you’ll be absolutely certain that someone has just implicated himself (or herself) in the throttling death of one of their fellow characters.
The Mousetrap is indeed a game of cat–and–mouse. The cat in question is police sergeant Trotter (Kevin Buttimer), who’s arrived at a lonely country hotel to look for clues in a recent grisly crime in London.
Things get worse from there, as one of the guests at Monkswell Manor also turns up dead, and it’s up to Trotter to question each member of the eccentric assemblage to find out who’s got something to hide.
Guess what? Everybody does!
It’s a motley crew of standard–issue British oddballs: There’s stuffy Major Metcalf (Alec Caldas), imperious old Mrs. Boyle (Mary Elizabeth Hawks), flighty youngster Christopher Wren (Josh Warnock), mysterious Miss Casewell (India Kirk), and the proprietors of Monkswell Manor, newlyweds Giles and Mollie Ralston (John E. Wright and Erin Meals).
Into the mix comes Mr. Parvacini (L. Black), who may be the weirdest character ever to walk across a Savannah stage. Parvacini is dressed in black, sports a bright, white Albert Einstein wig and a Dali–esque moustache, and speaks in a sing–songy accent of indeterminate origin.
During intermission at the performance I attended, most of the lobby conversations seemed to involve theories as to who done it.
Before you go assuming well, it had to be Col. Mustard in the library with a candlestick, bear in mind that The Mousetrap is the longest continually–running play in history — it’s been on London’s West End since 1952 and is still going strong — so old Agatha knew a thing or two about edge–of–seat plotting.
It is, to quote Homer J. Simpson, fiendish in its intricacies.
The AASU cast is clearly having fun with this theater warhorse. To a performer, the British accents stay true from start to finish – something of a rarity, especially in college productions – and the characterizations are fleshed out with appropriate body language and little bits of business. The play may be a bit talky, but things are never slow.
Black’s Parvacini is a delight, mostly because the character laughs at inappropriate moments; Warnock’s Wren comes off like one of those youthful, artistic twits portrayed by Graham Chapman in countless Monty Python sketches.
Although he looks a bit like Leonardo DiCaprio in a bowler hat, Buttimer gives Trotter the proper amount of police–official gravitas; likewise, Kirk’s Casewell remains aloof and mysterious even as those around her are falling to pieces.
A big shout–out to director Peter Mellen, whose brilliant set design makes the goings–on feel appropriately claustrophobic, all the better for an audience waiting with bated breath to see the mousetrap — and The Mousetrap — snap shut.
The Mousetrap continues July 15–18 at AASU’s Jenkins Hall Theater. Tickets are $10; call (912) 344-2801 for information and tickets.