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"Mousetrap" keeps audience guessing until the end

"Mousetrap" keeps audience guessing until the end

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4CP Mousetrap

Cast members of Four County Players’ The Mousetrap acknowledge the audience during the curtain call at the conclusion of Saturday evening’s show. The production continues through March 22 on the main stage at the Barboursville Community Theater.

“The Mousetrap” is one of those long-running plays you need to see at least once. The deservedly popular Agatha Christie murder mystery keeps you guessing all the way to the end and has plenty of good humor, as the current production at Four County Players makes abundantly clear.

The play is set in rural England, 30 miles from London, during the Blizzard of 1947. Mollie Ralston (Lisa Weigold) and husband Giles Ralston (Charif Soubra) are the inheritors of a small manor home they’ve converted into a guest house. As the blizzard whips up, the anxious young couple greets an oddball crew of guests, the very first paying visitors to Monkswell Manor Guest House.

Young Christopher Wren (Greyson Taylor), an architect in training, is all flounces, malevolent stares and maniacal giggles. Grouchy Mrs. Boyle (Linda C. Zuby) can’t find anything to like about her hosts or her lodging.

Major Metcalf (John Baker) is an agreeable old chap perpetually hovering at the edges of the action. Miss Casewell (Emma Shirey), with her iron handshake and flask at the ready, simmers with secrets. Mr. Paravacini (Tim Carlson), a long-haired, red-cheeked Italian traveler, arrives without a reservation and stirs the mystery pot with his insinuating charm.

In the midst of the arrivals, the Ralstons and their guests learn of a murder at a nearby estate. (An old-fashioned radio has a supporting role.) In due course, a police detective named Sergeant Trotter, well played by John Kermgard, arrives on skis in search of clues and connections. As the snow piles up and tempers flare, tragedy strikes at Monkswell Manor. And hence the question: Whodunit?

On Saturday night, Taylor got some laughs for his over-the-top performance, and Zuby nailed the part of an obnoxious old biddy. Baker’s wonderfully expressive face was a play all its own. Weigold and Soubra were appealing in their interactions with their zany guests, but in talking to each other, the new innkeepers’ testy nervousness at times came off as unearned disgust.

After a somewhat slow first act, the pace picked up considerably. In close quarters, with everyone under suspicion, private conversations revealed tantalizing clues, and the relationships between characters felt more authentic. Woven into the play from the beginning, the nursery rhyme tune “Three Blind Mice” grew more unsettling each time it occurred as “The Mousetrap” moved toward its final snap.

This reviewer, seeing the play for the first time, didn’t guess the ending. Kudos to the cast and director Clinton Johnston for an enjoyable show—a welcome distraction from the mounting news of the coronavirus—and high-fives (followed by hand sanitizing) to scenic director James Harte and everyone involved in creating the cozy set. The glimmering snow falling outside the French doors is an especially nice touch.

Directed by Clinton Johnston and produced by Charlotte Drummond, “The Mousetrap” runs through Sunday, March 22, on the Mainstage. For ticket information, call the Four County Players box office at 832-5355 or email 4countyplayers@gmail.com.

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