By Paul Love
In order for a theatre show to claim the title of Longest Running Play in History, it needs to be entertaining. And if it’s a murder mystery, it needs to be intriguing. Thankfully, Scarborough Theatre Guild’s production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is all of this and more.
For those who don’t know the story, the action takes place at Monkswell Manor, a recently converted guest house located in the remote countryside in England. As the play opens, it is revealed to us through a radio report that a woman has been murdered in London and the killer is still at large. The proprietor of Monkswell, Mollie Ralston, and her husband, Giles, arrive at the manor amidst a raging snowstorm and quickly prepare for the arrival of their guests. The four expected guests begin to arrive. They are followed by two unexpected visitors. Ultimately, the stage is set with eight people trapped in the guest house, who soon discover that one of them is the killer.
We get an immediate and powerful sense of setting with Mike Scott’s smartly designed and gorgeously decorated set. The ornate fixtures and the comfortably worn furniture and rugs, combined with David Buffman’s excellent lighting design, give the audience a sense of a warm, cozy retreat, which contrasts powerfully with the chilling spectre of murder.
Director Chelsea Jones stages the production expertly, ramping up the action to a sense of urgency in just the right moments, and then bringing it back to earth in between those moments. She balances the action nicely between the two sides of the room, and she uses the second floor sparingly but effectively.
As with most murder mysteries, the characters usually have a lot more going on that what we initially see, so a talented cast is needed to pull it off. Ms. Jones has assembled a troupe of actors who are more than up to the challenge.
Mackenzie Potts’s performance as Mollie Ralston is nothing short of revelatory. She whisks herself about the stage, trying to make sure everything is perfect, struggling to keep the peace amongst the guests and with her husband, often flabbergasted, but always in control. Ms. Potts has created a riveting and believable character who is instantly likable, and has us rooting for her from the get-go.
Giles Ralston, Mollie’s partner in marriage as well as running the guest house, is played with such luxurious charm and fervor by Nick Saraf, that it is easily understood why Mollie trusts him implicitly.
Abram Taylor creates a kooky man-child with his hilariously eccentric portrayal of Christopher Wren. Mr. Taylor’s complete commitment to each moment easily allows him to steal scenes throughout the show, without ever making the character more than it should be.
Patricia Byrne’s take on Mrs. Boyle is the perfect grumpy, fussy, older Englishwoman, with her spot-on sense of entitlement and superiority, making for an enjoyable performance.
David Cooke truly embodies a disciplined, militaristic upbringing with his stern disposition and clipped tones whenever he chooses to speak.
Carina Cojeen creates a truly enigmatic character with her portrayal of Miss Casewell, infusing her with a sense of adventure and intrigue, while managing to make her seem guarded at the same time.
Stephen Flett gives a wonderfully energetic performance as Mr. Paravacini, one of the unexpected arrivals at the manor. Mr. Flett allows his character to walk a tight rope between gregarious and mysterious.
The other unexpected guest, Detective Sergeant Trotter, is played to great effect by Kai Novak, giving Trotter a strong sense of duty, tempered with warmth and sincerity, as he struggles to reveal the killer’s identity before tragedy strikes.
If you’re in the mood for a classic murder mystery — played with great humour as well as intrigue — get yourself to the Scarborough Village Theatre, 3600 Kingston Road. Remaining performances are March 14, 15, 16, 21, and 22 at 8 pm, and March 17 and 23 at 2 pm. Tickets are available at the door or visit the website.