Set in England during the winter of 1952, a group of strangers are trapped together at a manor house during a snowstorm. They soon discover one of them is a murderer and suspicion runs wild.
Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" was inspired by the real-life case of Dennis O'Neill, a boy who died while in the foster care of a Shropshire farmer and his wife in 1945. It began as a 20-minute radio play called "Three Blind Mice," broadcast on May 30, 1947. It evolved into the stage play and premiered in the West End of London in 1952 and has never stopped running. With over 24,500 performances, The Mousetrap is the longest continuously running play of all time.
I admit that I've never seen the play and was expecting the same old cloak and dagger often boring predictable "Clue" mystery game scenario. What a pleasant surprise!
Could it be the newlywed owners of the establishment Giles and Mollie Ralston played by Dan Hodge and Jennie Eisenhower, or Mrs. Boyle, the crabby old spinster (Judith Knight Young)? Perhaps it is the all-too-normal retired Army Major Metcalf played by Paul L. Nolan, or the eccentRic Young architect Christopher Wren (Eric Bryant).
Surely it could be the strange foreigner, Mr. Paravicini (Laurent Giroux) who's car capsizes in a snow bank, or the mysterious young woman Miss Casewell (Charlotte Northeast), whom no one really knows who she is and why she's there.
The Walnut's stellar cast keeps the audience glued as the plot unfolds and each character lays heavy hints of being possible suspects. The British accents are solid all around and add to the charm of the piece. Police sergeant Trotter, Harry Smith arrives (on skies) to interrogate the suspects, I mean the house guests.
Smith does an exceptional job at keeping the insanity going, badgering each guest while not missing a single line or nuance within his character. Mr. Parvincini is an immediate shoe-in for the crime, just by his suspicious actions and spy vs. spy glares. Giroux captures the sinister role with a twist of wicked humor that delights. Miss Casewell (Northeast) shoots the most intriguing glances and sly reactions to the goings on making her a prime candidate of "something" odd. The silly young Christopher Wren (Eric Bryant) becomes a suspect simply because he is "simple-minded". Even the Ralstons', the newly married couple are talked into accusations against each other by the instigating detective who pits one against another in his attempt to both warn and accuse this odd mix of house guests.
A single set stage of a proper English Manor more than accommodates the action with a large wood paneled parlor and numerous entrances to add to the action of the comings and goings on throughout the madness.
To celebrate its 60th year, Mousetrap Productions has licensed 60 productions of The Mousetrap world-wide, including Walnut Street Theatre. During 2012 the play will be seen on every continent. The show will also tour the UK for the first time ever, while simultaneously continuing performances at St. Martin's Theatre in London.
Veteran director Malcom Black whose Walnut credits include last season's Amadeus, Damn Yankees among others has wowed the audience again with this riveting, tongue-in-cheek classic.
The Mousetrap runs at the Walnut January 17 through March 4. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.