1st Stage The MousetrapBy Mark Lee Adams • Dec 21st, 2010 • Category: Reviews
1st Stage, McLean, VA
Through January 9th
Reviewed December 11th, 2010
The longest running play, some 58 years, has been given a very nice rendition by director Jessica Lefkow at 1st Stage in Tysons. Mousetrap is an Agatha Christie classic mystery play with all members of the cast a ‘person of interest’ with the police. Trying to guess just who the culprit(s) are just may be a very doting task, but you won’t be disappointed and should be quite surprised as well.
1st Stage, in Tyson’s, has put together a creative team to mount this show and I must say it’s a pleasant relief from all the Scrooge Gets A Conscience/Clarence Gets His Wings productions up all over town. As you enter the theatre doors you’re met with a very pleasant staff. The lobby area is quaint but filled with a nice décor and concessions bar. Then up the stairs puts you at the back of the stadium seating to a floor level stage. The seating is quite comfortable with plenty of leg room. I like that. As you look at the set you are charmed with an English Guest House style home. The set, designed by the never mentioned designer(s) was excellent. This set offers the actors many levels to work from and on. Whoever the designer is, I congratulate you on a marvelous job. Mousetrap was directed by Jessica Lefkow. Her staging of the actors is admirable. In keeping with 1st Stages, “…unique mission to help emerrging artists establish their careers….”, she has assembled a young and strong cast.
This production was lucky to have Suzanne Richard playing the role of Mrs. Boyle. Her keen sense of just how to irritate and frustrate were in full form. She makes an exit like no other actor can. I loved watching her work. Arden Moscati as Detective Sergeant Trotter, did a marvelous job with his transformations in Act 2, but needed to show a little more stodgy stiffness in the first act in order to ward off the young boyishness he exudes. Karl Bittner as Christopher Wren was excellent but did drop his projection at times and forced the audience to strain to hear him. His total command of the stage at the right moments was very apparent and appreciated. Patrick Smith as Major Metcalf was excellent. Mr. Smith’s delivery, with his deep resonating voice, was true to the character. Very well done, what. Playing the roles of the young married couple and owners of the guesthouse Giles & Mollie Ralston are John Stange & Jennifer Weinreich. Each actor has the look for these roles but weren’t able to capture many moments of chemistry between them. Maybe as the play continues, they’ll be more comfortable with each other. Abby Wood as Miss Casewell gave the audience a very strong performance, as the script is written, especially when it came to listening and reacting on stage. A very strong and confident presence was spot on. Luke Tudball as Mr. Paravicini was very good as his light hearted character suggests. A little fidgety at times on stage was he, but very humorous as well. As a whole, this cast came together very well, except for their accents and the suspense which Mousetrap must have.
Some of the issues American productions have with a British show are, as one might imagine, accents. It is very important for each of the actors to be as consistent as possible with the accent they’ve chosen for their character. Aside from Mr. Tudball & Mr. Smith, the Britsh accents were not sustained and slid from American English dialects to varying English dialects. If it wasn’t for Agatha Christie’s strong story, which does keep you very interested from moment to moment, and the brilliant performance by Suzanne Richard, you are left with the lack of consistent accents. Nobody sustaining any fear that their character may die at any moment, made me wish for more from this production, but I did enjoy the show overall.
The set is wonderful. The lighting by C. Ian Campbell was very well done. Especially liked the working hot light switches. John Yu’s sound design did everything one could ask for in establishing suspense.
On the 6th of October, 1952, five strangers, the young proprietors of a newly-opened guest house and a strapping policeman would all come together for a a spot of murder on a cold and wintry day. They have been meeting to reenact the crime ever since-for a staggering 58 years and more than 20,000 performances on London’s West End, alone.
Of course, we’ve all heard of the play. No one who has ever played a game of Clue, attended mystery dinner theater performances, followed Monty Python or the career of the late, great Peter Ustinov has escaped its influence. So when I was first asked to direct The Mousetrap for 1st Stage, my heart sank. What challenge could possibly be left in the show?
How foolish I was? On reading the piece, I could see immediately why The Mousetrap would be such a great treat for our audiences, especially at this time of year. As the days grow cold and short, we long for the warmth of the familiar to drive out the chill, the challenge of the clever to quicken our cooped up minds. How better to spend a winter outing than cozied up to a superbly-wrought set of characters and circumstances, each sporting a veritable school of red herrings all flapping their tails at anyone trying to parse out the mystery before death strikes again?
Mounting this production, thus, has meant rising to the challenge of building this perfect machine of a play to precision, buffing and oiling its many parts to a glittering precisely running whole. We have spent the weeks leading up to our opening working to do just that, with a wonderful cast and crew.
It is with pleasure, pride, and all the good wishes of this season that we ask you to sit back, perk up your eyes and ears, and enjoy our performance of this very special catchy, well-beloved play.
And if you know who dunnit?…Don’t tell!
Photos provided by 1st Stage.
- Mollie Ralston: Jennifer Weinreich
- Giles Ralston: John Strange
- Christopher Wren: Karl Bittner
- Mrs. Boyle: Suzanne Richard
- Major Metcalf: Patrick Smith
- Miss Casewell: Abby Wood
- Mr. Paravicini: Luke Tudball
- Detective Sergeant Trotter: Arden Moscati
- Director: Jessica Lefkow
- Lights: C. Ian Campbell
- Costumes: Jennifer M. Allevato
- Sound: John Yu
- Casting: Jane Margulies Kalbfeld
- Fight Choreographer: Paul Gallagher
- Props: Deb Crerie, Kay Rzasa
- Graphic Design: Robin Harris
- program: Marty McGrane, Lynne Silverstein
- Production Manager: C. Ian Campbell
- Stage Manager: Christine Yackee
Disclaimer: 1st Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6016.
Mark Lee Adams has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.