Theatre review: 'The Mousetrap' will capture your imagination

For the News-DemocratDecember 13, 2013 

Perfect entertainment for a chilly winter's eve, The Repertory Theatre's take on the classic Agatha Christie mystery "The Mousetrap" embraces timeless storytelling and a quaint 1940s period that remains a fascinating depiction of social mores.

The longest-running play of all-time, which opened in 1952 in London and is still going, gets a fresh makeover by adroit director Paul Mason Barnes, whose new set of eyes and masterful attention to detail makes settling back and digging in to the juicy whodunit appealing.

Inspired by actual events, a horrible case of child abuse and neglect that eventually changed British laws, sets up the reason for a series of murders. In typical drawing-room mystery fashion, an eccentric coterie of characters is spending time at a country estate, the newly opened Monkswell Manor, operated by newlyweds Mollie and Giles Ralston. A police officer arrives during a winter storm to tell them they might be targets of the killer. Naturally, the guests -- as well as the proprietors -- harbor secrets.

The joys of trying to figure out the murderer is why the show is so engaging, even when the stodgier elements of the play must be endured.

The ensemble has polished its portrayals of these intriguing characters to fully engage us -- with Larry Paulsen as slick continental Mr. Paravicini and Sean Mellott as the nervous Christopher Wren standouts.

Christian Pedersen is strong as detective Sgt. Trotter, while Darrie Lawrence as Mrs. Boyle, Tarah Flanagan as Miss Casewell and Michael James Reed as Major Metcalf are convincing in their roles. Ellen Adair and William Connell are believable as the young couple wanting their new business venture to succeed, and blindsided by the powder keg situation now unfolding at their home.

With a clever assortment of red herrings to keep us guessing, "The Mousetrap" is an old-fashioned mind game. The literary titan Christie wrote 94 books and 20 plays during her lifetime, and this superbly crafted work remains engrossing 61 years after its premiere on the West End stage.

Set in a bygone era, where civilized manners were the norm, the characters' dialogue reflects British customs, and John Ezell's grand set design of the elegant Great Hall reflects this way of life. You can immerse yourself in a time where people dressed for dinner and withheld personal information.

The play continues through Dec. 29 on the Mainstage at the Repertory Theater, 130 Edgar Road, St. Louis. For more information, visit the website, www.repstl.org, or call the box office at 314-968-4925.

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