As news of a murder in the city is announced on the radio, eight people are stuck together in a snowed-in country guest house, the phone line has been cut and something just doesn’t seem right; this is the setup for the Northern Arizona University Department of Theatre’s current production of “The Mousetrap.”
Since its debut in 1952 at London’s West End Theatre, the play has captivated audiences with its classic whodunit murder mystery that includes enough twists to throw even scrutinizers off the scent of potential suspects.
The story was originally written as a radio play by Agatha Christie for the British Broadcasting Corporation under the name of “Three Blind Mice,” but quickly grew in popularity.
NAU’s “The Mousetrap” is directed by Professor of Theatre Bob Yowell and dedicated to the memory of Mac Groves, a theater faculty member who passed away in January.
“All the major repertoire theaters have done this play,” said Yowell during intermission of the final dress rehearsal Thursday night. “It’s a standard.”
Christie estimated her play would only run for eight months when it opened, but "The Mousetrap" has claimed the title of the longest-running play in the history of modern theater, racking up over 27,000 performances by the time it celebrated its 65th anniversary in 2017.
Performances of “The Mousetrap” began Friday, with a matinee showing today, Sunday, Feb. 25, at 2 p.m. in the intimate Studio Theater in NAU’s Performing and Fine Arts Building. The show will continue Thursday-Saturday, March 1-3, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 4, at 2 p.m.
The 1950s set for The “Mousetrap,” designed by Naoko Skala and built by NAU theater students, features a fireplace, rotary phone, plenty of comfy chairs, large window panes and a snow machine to depict snow falling outside.
The first act opens as Mollie and Giles Ralston (Emily Wood and Morgan Gallob) are preparing the new Monkswell Manor guest house for a first round of vacationers while a snowstorm outside worsens.
Not everything is what it appears to be though as the rest of the cast, made up of suspicious characters who all seem to have something to hide, is introduced.
First to arrive is Christopher Wren (Robert J. Quick), a neurotic young man who claims to be studying to become an architect and immediately snoops through the house when the owners leave him alone.
Then comes Mrs. Boyle (Galen Coburn-Amadio), who is unimpressed by the young couple’s abode. Shortly after, Major Metcalf (J.C. Lawler), an ex-military man, and Ms. Casewell (Hannah Holt), described as a “mannish woman,” arrive to complete the group of guests with advanced reservations.
As they are getting to know each other, the doorbell unexpectedly rings and Paravicini (Miguel Ochoa) enters with just a small bag of belongings. The exuberant character says his car slid into a snowdrift and he needs to stay the night. He emphasizes to Mollie and Giles that he is a stranger who suddenly showed up following news of a murder in the city and wonders out loud whether or not they should trust him.
After this strange entrance, a phone call alerts Mollie that a police officer is headed to the house, apparently following a lead in connection to the strangulation murder Paravicini mentioned. Officer Trotter (K. Garcia) arrives on skis and takes control of the situation, promising everyone he’ll get to the bottom of the case.
Despite the tension in the script, the chemistry between the characters is clear and lends itself to believable scenes as the audience goes through a range of emotions during the unfolding drama. Each quirky character also brings enough humor to prevent the play from becoming too dark.
“We have some talented students and I’d like everybody who owns a snow shovel in Flagstaff to come to the play,” Yowell said.