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The Nousetrap

Harvard Theater

Written by Agatha Christie

Directed by Adam Schwartz

At Leverett House this Weekend

LIKE NEARLY every other Agatha Christie work, The Mousetrap features a group of people whom chance has thrown together in a secluded place and who have a murderer in their midst. Complete with the usual drawing room scene, Christie's play is as pleasant as it is familiar--or is it familiar? The plot turns might surprise even the most jaded mystery buff.

The action of The Mousetrap takes place at Monkswell Manor, a countryside guest house that opens its doors for the first time as the play begins. Director Adam Schwartz effectively uses Leverett's Old Library's natural set-up to simulate a house, owned and run by a couple of newlyweds, Mollie Ralston (Holly Cate) and Giles (Bill Salloway).

The play opens with a radio flash about a murder committed in London, just 30 miles away from the manor's living room. Into this room come Mollie and Giles. After a slow start, Cate discovers the spirit of her role and overcomes her weak British accent. In contrast, Salloway is bland from the start and stays that way.

First of the four expected guests to arrive is Christopher Wren, an eccentric young man who loves cooking and other men. Donal Logue plays this character with flair, but also with a touch of caricature. Entering from stage left is Mrs. Boyle (Jennifer Hodges), who wears far too much makeup on her face and powder in her hair. Boyle is a "bloody bat," a chronic complainer trapped at Monkswell Manor by the ongoing blizzard. But Hodges lacks the voice and mannerisms for which the part calls.

Keeping Boyle company is Major Metcalfe (Kris Kobach), who has shared her taxi to the manor. Kobach gives a good performance, but he never fully convinces as a middle-aged British military official.

The last of the expected guests is Miss Casewell, a mysterious young woman. Chalon Emmonds delights the audience with sneers of cold contempt and satiric witticisms, delivered with just the right amount of sang froid.

But the twists soon enter the plot of The Mousetrap with the arrival of Mr. Paravicini (played by the lively Peter Pappas) and Detective Sergeant Trotter (Ian Thornley). Trotter fears a murder will take place at the manor because of a notebook indicating the manor found at the scene of the London murder and is out to prevent it.

From the moment of his intensely dramatic entrance--bounding through the Library's window--to the bitter end, Thornley delivers the play's best performance and has the only credible British accent of the bunch. Thornley holds his own against the many professional actors with whom Christie fans are sure to be familiar. He brilliantly interrogates the other characters in the play's many drawing room scenes.

The play winds to a close with an intriguing variation on the usual crime reneactment theme.

The Mousetrap is vintage Christie. Formulaic at its worst and delightful at its best, the play receives a thoroughly enjoyable treatment from the Leverett House crew. Trotter's stellar acting and Pappas' charming Swiss Italian accent turn the play into the light entertainment it is meant to be.

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