baltimoresun.com

« Premiere of 'Diner,' the musical, delayed again | Main | For Midweek Madness, a refresher on how not to conduct an interview »

January 9, 2013

An entertaining "Mousetrap" from the Vagabond Players

By now, 60 long years after Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” opened in London, the whodunit is more of a fixture than a stage show.

It apparently cannot ever be stopped on that side of The Pond, where it has surpassed the 25,000th performance mark and still holds firmly onto the record as the world’s longest-running play.

On our shores, the work never became such an institution, but it still continues to attract attention now and then, particularly from community theater groups.

One of them, the Vagabond Players, has a production running now that finds decent mileage still left in this juicy little murder mystery set in a country guest house where coincidence and cunning collide one snowy night.

Those who have never seen “The Mousetrap” — and have not peeked on the Web to learn the final plot twist — should have the best time. But even those in the know will likely find enough to enjoy.

The Vagabond staging is ...

directed with a mostly sure, fleet touch by Eric C. Stein. He also does a dynamic turn playing Giles, one of the innkeepers who get much more than they bargained for when they decide to open Monkswell Manor.

Giles’ other half, Molly (Ann Turiano), is not just new to the hotel trade, but still relatively new to marriage, meaning there just might be a secret or two she has yet to uncover about her husband — and one or two he might want to know about her.

Molly has good reason to worry that the first guests at Monkswell Manor may be unpleasant or odd. The blizzard blows quite an assortment of colorful characters into the lodge, all potential suspects once it becomes clear that something murderous has entered with them.

Part of what keeps “The Mousetrap” snappy is that mix of humanity, starting with the foppish, impossibly named Christopher Wren (Brian M. Kehoe), who says he’s an architect.

He’s just the tip of an iceberg that soon reveals the stuffy Mrs. Boyle; a retired military officer, the reserved Major Metcalf; a mannish woman named Miss Casewell; an unexpected foreigner, Mr. Paravacini; and the inevitable policeman, Det. Sgt. Trotter.

The plot, which has its roots in an ugly, real-life crime reported from the English countryside in 1945, holds up well, if you don’t spend too much time analyzing it — and, as with so much mystery fiction, if you don’t mind a maze of improbable interconnections.

The Vagabonds throw themselves eagerly into the proceedings, bringing with them generally persuasive accents that help put the finishing touch on the cutely evocative set.

Turiano makes a charming, sensitive Molly, conveying the young woman’s nervous delight in the inn-keeping adventure and her subsequent realization that all’s not well. Turiano and Stein also generate some nice chemistry, as much with little romantic sparks as with growing anxiety.

Kehoe is quite a chirpy Wren, nervously flouncing about the place, flashing his loud tartan socks as he goes. If the actor gets a little too close to going over the top now and then, he certainly gives the production a welcome electric charge.

Mrs. Boyle seems to be the prototype for the perpetually unsatisfied guest on a great “Fawlty Towers” episode, the lady expecting a much more exciting room than a humble establishment could ever provide. Nona Porter has fun with the role, especially articulating the character’s annoying snobbery (“The lower classes have no idea of their responsibilities”).

April Rejman impresses as Miss Casewell, especially in the second act, when the truth melts the young woman’s rigid exterior. Adam Bloedorn proves to be another asset in a wiry, vibrant turn as Trotter.

As Paravacini, Richard McGraw could use more nuance (and an accent that doesn’t sound like he comes from a little known Swedish region of Italy). David Morey gets the job done neatly as Metcalf. If “The Mousetrap” creaks or drags a little, it can still deliver the kick expected of a vintage Christie mystery, which the Vagabond staging reconfirms.

The production runs through Feb. 3.

PHOTO BY FERD MAINOLFI

Posted by Tim Smith at 5:28 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens
        

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at baltimoresun.com/artsmash. This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
View the Artsmash blog
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Baltimore Sun coverage
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop
PHOTO GALLERY
Famous faces in classical music
Sign up for FREE entertainment alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with baltimoresun.com's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Most Recent Comments
Stay connected