Tuesday, November 1, 2011

REVIEW: The Mousetrap (IUS)



Reviews for the Real Person
by Alonzo Richmond



The Mousetrap
by Agatha Christie
Indiana University Southeast Theatre Department



In a season where over-the-top murder mysteries are being performed, one often gets lost in the hype of the comedy-driven genre. However, IUS Theatre Department tackles the much more serious yet classic tale of The Mousetrap! Agatha Christie originally wrote this tale for Queen Mary which opened in West London in 1952. Currently The Mousetrap holds the record as the longest running theatrical performance in history! In an attempt to keep the surprise ending a mystery, Christie has requested that no film or short story version of the play be published until at least six months after the West End production has closed.

The play is your regular ‘who-dun-it’ mystery. Eight people are snowed in at a guest house: Mollie and Giles Ralston, the owners; four invited guests, each with eccentric characteristics; the unexpected guest, who turns up after his car overturns in the snow storm; and a detective. Once everyone has arrived it is not long before a murder takes place and the detective assembles all the guests together and interrogates each one. During the interrogation we learn a little more about these secretive, mysterious characters.

Even though this is your normal whodunit, the script is quite good. There are enough false clues to keep you guessing and a few hidden ones that mean if you stay alert you will not be too surprised to discover that the murderer is ****. Just kidding! If you want the answer to that question then you will need to go and see this quintessentially English murder mystery for yourself.

I didn't realize until the show started that I had never seen an IUS production, so I wasn't sure what to expect. These students quickly convinced me that they are worth seeing! I have to award the MVP title to a young but very strong Jenna Ryan (Mollie Ralston). Ms. Ryan soars in her portrayal of the young proprietor of Monkswell Manor, where the entirety of the play takes place. Jenna is a freshman and Silver Creek High School alum, but her performance showed the audience that she could hang with her older counterparts exceptionally well!  She carried much of the show with her believable character portrayal and delivery. While Ryan was strong, it wan't that she was "better" than anyone else--just more consistent. I look forward to future productions with Jenna leading her cast!

While Ryan was the MVP, there were other really strong performances including my personal favorite, Blake Oliver (Christopher Wren). Wren is a very peculiar, flamboyant, young architect. He admits he is running away from something, but refuses to say what. That quickly makes him a suspect in the murders. This Theatre minor showed that he has what it takes to steal the show, because he nearly did just that! Oliver embodied the character perfectly. I studied him throughout the show and I didn't see a single moment of character breaking! Oliver's Act II scene with Jenna Ryan was simply outstanding. These two are very compatible as onstage friends and produced some of the finer moments of the show.

Will Gantt ( Detective Trotter) shines as the "savior" of the houseguests.  He interrogates each one on a voyage of discovery to determine who the murderer is. At the start of Mr. Gantt entrance I wasn't sure what to make of his performance. It wasn't until after the show that I realized how convincing he really was. Will has a bright future ahead of him as a leading man. However after the murder was revealed, I felt that his performance fell short just a bit. He went from extremely convincing to working too hard to convince us. Other than that and a few stumbles over lines, well done! One of Gantt's strongest moments came when he shared the stage with Christina Biller (Miss Casewell) an aloof, masculine woman who is clearly hiding something. Biller has moments of true greatness! I really enjoyed watching her use of her strong facial features.

Josh Martin (Major Metcalf) continues to surprise me. He is a very solid and committed performer who deserves to be taken seriously. While we know very little about Metcalf, Martin uses what is written and runs with it! Josh Martin is a great actor.

Giles Ralston, Mollie's husband of one year was portrayed by a young David Beach.. Beach has the potential to be a true threat in the local theatre scene. His debut performance was strong. At times the accent was a little forced which made some lines hard to understand. However, this is a minor issue.  Well done.

A very mysterious man arrives unexpectedly and is clearly in some type of disguise. Bobby Lightfoot (Mr. Paravicini) did well in this complicated role.

The second victim of the murderer is Mrs. Boyle, portrayed by Kristin Gilbert. Gilbert was quite funny as the critical older woman who is pleased by nothing she observes. Gilbert deserves praise for a good performance. My only criticism is that at times she played the character a little young.

Perhaps the best aspect of the show was Rebekkah J. Meixner-Hanks' set design. Wow! I  was really blown away by the attention to detail. The perfect wood trimming was simply beautiful. One of the best sets I've seen in a long-time!

These students have the great advantage of having stage and direction veteran, Jim Hesselman. His experience shines through his students in this production. KUDOS!!

You still have another weekend to get out and see this production. I am confident you will enjoy!

November 4th, 5th @ 8:00pm and Sunday November 6th @ 2:30pm

Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap
Director: Jim Hesselman
Scenic Design: Rebekkah J. Meixner-Hanks
Technical Director: Herb Caldwell
Costume Designer: Natalie Bowman
Stage Manager: Stephen Minotti


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