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ACT REVIEW: 'Mousetrap,' a classic story of who done it?

Julie Brookbank

What better way to kick off the Halloween season than with a murder mystery of global proportions?

Mitchell Area Community Theatre and director Ralyna Schilling have lassoed the legend and offer a killer production of Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap."

"Mousetrap" has the distinction of being the longest-running live show on the planet. Next month it will complete its 66th year on stage, currently running at the St. Martin's Theatre of London. (Compare that to Queen Elizabeth's reign. She has ruled England roughly the same amount of time.) The story itself is a classic "whodunit": eight strangers snowed in at a country house with an unidentified killer among them. By story's end, audience members will have witnessed murder and unveiled the secret identities of some of the characters who are trying to take justice into their own hands.

Innkeepers Mollie and Giles Ralston (Cat Erickson and Eric Van Meter) are welcoming four guests to their new business, each with a suspected secret. Colorful Christopher Wren, named for the architect, is played by ACT newcomer Joseph Carroll. Dour Mrs. Boyle (Holly Fechner) and Major Metcalf (veteran Mike Baker) arrive next, followed by the no-nonsense Miss Casewell (Keely Nelson Bullis). A surprise visitor, Mr. Paravicini (Benton Schmidt) trapped by the storm, and a police detective (Kevin Carroll) each plays a part in the story.

Erickson and Van Meter are perfectly cast as the English couple, with accents to match. Fechner plays Mrs. Boyle with haughty authenticity. Bullis's Casewell and J. Carroll's Wren are colorful characters to watch with numerous personality quirks. Baker and K. Carroll's retired army office and policeman are tried and true standards of any English murder mystery, but each is a well-developed character with an important place in the action. The standout performance belongs to Schmidt who plays the mysterious Italian interloper. The program indicates this is his stage debut and he has certainly found a home; I look forward to seeing him in future performances.

Prepare to be wowed by Devin Carey's set. With each backdrop that he designs, his talent improves. Little touches like brick work, a lovely fireplace and a large window provide the perfect setting to this snowed in spectacle. Tim Goldammer has designed a complementary lighting scheme and Ruth Sejnoha's costumes are period-accurate.

Some of the blocking is a little busy, and the director had her work cut out for her to keep eight people moving in and out. "Mousetrap" is also a wordy play; there is a lot of dialogue. But the cast has developed some very good synergy and the story is easy to follow. This is Schilling's first stage play with an adult cast. I hope she continues to lend her expertise to ACT.

What is it about the whodunit that keeps us coming back for more? Surely after more than 60 years, the secret is out and someone in the audience knows who the killer is. But that's what is a part of the fun of "The Mousetrap." Despite knowing the ending, you just want to keep coming back for more.

The show by Area Community Theatre has performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, October 12, and Saturday, October 13, and 1p.m. Sunday, October 14, at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre. Tickets are on sale at the theater or more information is available at 996-9137 or www.mitchellact.org.

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