Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 24, 2022

REVIEW: Hartford Stage, "The Mousetrap"

Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
through November 6, 2022
by Shera Cohen

Photo Courtesy Hartford Stage
First, not to worry when reading this review; there are no spoilers.

Second, it amazes me that I have never seen "The Mousetrap". After all, it is the longest-running play ever produced. 

Third, I suggest that all theatre lovers add this whodunit mystery to their "to do list". It was about time that I saw "The Mousetrap" at least once. Called a murder mystery with comedy, Agatha Christie set her winningest boilerplate plot and style to become the third most prominent writer in history, after the authors of The Bible, and William Shakespeare.

Upon taking the first steps into Hartford Stage's theatre, the audience becomes a guest at the Monkswell Manor, circa late-1940's England. More guests are to follow. The setting of the manor is created with such detail from ceiling to floor, outdoors and inside, that not an inch of space is wasted, yet never crowded, making interplay between characters natural. The many doors and stairs, dark interior and white snow offer the cast of eight their mundane comings and goings, and more importantly, the ever-present mysterious lurking around corners and framed shadows. While theatre critics usually start writing with emphasis on the actors' talents, it is Scenic Designer Riw Rakkulchon who deserves the initial kudos.

"The Mousetrap" cast of eight is, for the most part, an ensemble of well-skilled actors, each with proper English accents. The latter quality bothers me when all is not right. However, the role or Mr. Paravicini depicts him as European, probably Italian. Brendan As comic relief, Brendan Dalton creates a buffoon-like quirky suspect. The  author obviously knew some laughs were needed. Perhaps the character of Mollie, well-played by Sam Morales, is the "star" because she has the most lines and is the core of the manor and the plot.

Of course, Christie gives her audience a look at who killed who in the past, and who killed who on that particular day in the manor. The audience serves as eavesdroppers and wannabe sleuths. Clues abound, coupled with actors' exposure to the clandestine hints of murder. I found myself guessing the culprit, then another. I am sure that others did the same.

Director Jackson Gay moves her characters logically as the plot progresses. However, whether Christie wrote the play with guidelines to directors, I don't know. The long two-acts plus intermission, divide into three segments: introduction of characters to each other, murder, and denouement whodunit and why. This evening's  performance, only the third of the play's run, is slowed down quite a bit particularly marking the end of each segment. The pregnant pauses are too long, other points stretch out, all but one character speaks slowly. I'm guessing that the lags will be picked up as the play continues.

Ending with another behind-the-scenes praise-worthy job goes to the Sound Design of Broken Chord. "Three Blind Mice" is still in my brain, repetitively hauntingly.