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Theater: Classic Christie
Little Theatre presents <i>The Mousetrap</i>

Even though she died in 1975, Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories remain in print and are popular to this day. But perhaps she’s best remembered for her play, The Mousetrap, still running after 55 years. The Little Theatre of Savannah will present The Mousetrap March 15-30.

The story is about a young couple, Mollie and Giles Ralston, who have opened a hotel in a converted English manor. The Ralstons and four of their guests are snowed-in together with an additional traveler, who tells them his car is in a snowdrift. Detective Sgt. Trotter arrives on skis to inform the group that he believes a murderer is on his way to the hotel, following the death of Miss Maureen Lyon in London. One of the guests is killed, and the others realize that the murderer is already there at the hotel. They soon realize the killer could be any one of them.

Connect Savannah recently caught up with director Mark Rand:

The Mousetrap is famous for having the longest initial run of any play in the world. What do you think is responsible for its popularity?

Mark Rand: The Mousetrap is a beautifully crafted play, written at the height of Agatha Christie’s career. It’s a story that has inspired countless other whodunits with twist endings, but it was Christie who really made the genre what it is today. Even the board game Clue, and it’s consequent film and stage musical, owes its existence to the show. One interesting bit of trivia: Christie stipulated that the original London production must be closed for at least six months before a film adaptation could be made, therefore no film has yet been made.

Are many people still surprised by the twist at the end?

Mark Rand: Many people have seen it, but I’ve been surprised at how many people I’ve spoken to who haven’t. Younger people especially are not necessarily familiar with Agatha Christie’s writings. I’ve also encountered people who’ve thought they’ve seen it, but were confusing it with other Christie stories or other murder mysteries. The London production has a tradition of asking the audience to keep the twist ending a secret. We may do something similar for the sake of those unfamiliar with this classic whodunit. The last time The Little Theatre of Savannah produced the show was in 1958. We’re dedicating this show to the memory of Bill Starrs. who began his tenure with that season as artistic director for the Little Theatre.

Mark Rand: We have five men and three women: Greta Cribbs (Mollie Ralston), Brent Feasel (Giles Ralston), Jeff Fuell (Christopher Wren), Gaily Byrd (Mrs. Boyle), Jason Wallace (Major Metcalf), Bonnie Terrell (Miss Casewell), Jeroy Hannah (Mr. Paravicini) and Justin Kent (Detective Sergeant Trotter). We also have a special guest appearance by Dandy Barrett as Mrs. Lyon. People may be surprised that for the most part The Mousetrap has a youthful cast, with several characters in their 20s. It’s not necessarily the character types one might associate with an Agatha Christie story.

What have been the challenges of directing?

Mark Rand: My greatest challenge has been the set. I designed a rather ambitious set, but I’ve had tremendous help in getting it up. Cast member Jeff Fuell, who is also a production design student at SCAD, has assumed the role of master carpenter and lighting designer for the show and is doing a fantastic job. He also designed the beautiful poster. Many other people have contributed to this production as well. I’m extremely grateful to all our volunteers.

Are the actors speaking in British accents?

Mark Rand: Actually, not all of the character in the show are British, but we are using dialects. The story is so firmly planted in a specific time and place -- the early 1950s, countryside not far from London -- that it’s virtually impossible to make interpretive changes to the setting.

* The Mousetrap holds the record for the longest initial run in the world. It opened Nov. 25, 1952, at the Ambassadors Theatre in London, and is still running after more than 20,000 performances.

* Christie was at the center of her own mystery in 1926 when she disappeared for 10 days. She claimed to have suffered a nervous breakdown and a fugue state caused by the death of her mother and her husband’s infidelity, but many people believed it was a publicity stunt.

* Christie gave the copyright for The Mousetrap to her grandson, Mathew Prichard, as a birthday present.

* Christie’s best-known characters are the Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, who appeared in 30 of Christie’s novels and 50 short stories, and Miss Jane Marple, who was based on Christie’s grandmother.