Suffield Players, Suffield, CT
through October 24, 2015
by Stuart W. Gamble
A mild autumn evening, friends enjoying snacks sitting in cabaret-style seats, a warm family-like atmosphere prevails, hardly the stuff that murder mysteries are made of, but not so at the Suffield Player’s season opening show, “The Mousetrap.”
Christie’s chestnut is given a fresh transfusion in SP’s production. The play opens as Mollie Ralston (Rachel Berezin) and her husband Giles (Steve Wandzy) prepare to open their home, Monkswell Manor (a former monastery), to paying guests as a sort of rooming house. The Ralstons are a decidedly normal couple in their first year of marriage. Their guests, however, prove to be an eccentric, and in some cases, a downright bizarre bunch: there’s the foppish and fey Christopher Wren (Shaun O’Keefe); the blowsy, domineering Mrs. Boyle (Kelly Seip); the stiff-upper-lipped Major Metcalf (Mark Proulx); the dour, androgynous Miss Casewell (Brianna Stronk); and the truly strange Senor Paravicini (Roger Ochs).
If this sounds like a somewhat altered game of Clue, that’s because Christie was one of the earliest practitioners of the disparate group of people trapped together in an isolated setting. Into this seemingly unrelated group of strangers, comes Detective Sergeant Trotter (Reid Sinclair), who despite his youth and inexperience, tries to unravel the mystery before another homicide occurs.
“The Mousetrap” is truly an ensemble piece and all eight actors work well together. O’Keefe steals the show with his joyful performance as the superficially funny, but ultimately deeply troubled Christopher Wren who spouts off such lines as “I like murder” with gleeful abandon. Seip is also a standout as the ill-fated Mrs. Boyle. Her no-nonsense dismissal of the strange goings-on as “melodramatic rubbish” adds much humor to the more melodramatic moments. Sinclair offers perhaps the most complex performance in a truly difficult role. His detective keeps the audience engrossed in the Act II. Sinclair’s accent is very authentic as well, revealing his lower-class origin.
The stately yet cozy drawing room setting has been meticulously designed by Art Christian and assisted by Konrad Rogowski and Kelly Seip right down to the circa 1950’s radio and telephone. Boutin’s costumes range from “veddy British” tweeds to brightly colored argyles.
Suffield Player’s respectable production is obviously a labor of love for the group. With over 40 people in the program credited for their contributions, SP exemplifies the meaning of a theatre community.