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'The Mousetrap' keeps the crowd guessing
To say the actors in Village Theatre's production of "The Mousetrap" have big expectations to meet would be an understatement. The production, which debuted at London's West End in 1952, is the longest running play on record - and logged its 25,000th performance in November 2012.
Adding to the pressure is the fact "The Mousetrap" stands out as the sole non-musical being performed as part of Village Theatre's 2012-2013 season. But what it lacks in musical delights, it more than makes up for in plot twists and turns - and stellar presentation.
Originally titled "Three Blind Mice," Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" has become the late author's signature murder mystery tale - a roller coaster of a ride known as much for its surprising conclusion as for the characters encountered along the way.
In this tale, eight strangers are held captive at the newly opened Monkswell Manor, at the hands of a treacherous snow storm. Hosted by proprieters Mollie and Giles Ralston, all seems well at the gathering - until it's revealed a murderer may be in their midst.
Directed by Jeff Steitzer, a Village Theatre alumnus, it'd be fair to say the Seattle-based cast hits the nail on the head. The costumes are perfect, the accents don't distract and the set has you feeling like you're in an authentic English inn. Paired with the variety of personalities on stage - and a number of red herons - it's an experience that will have you guessing all night long.
As far as the acting is concerned, it's worth mentioning that Quinn Armstrong, making his Village debut as the peculiar Christopher Wren, steals the show. A hyperactive young man with neurotic tendencies, Wren is taken under the wing or Mollie Ralston from the get-go, but as the story unravels, so too, do Wren's similarities to the accused. Hats off to Armstrong, who plays the role brilliantly - shifting nervously as new case evidence is revealed while maintaining a sweetness that portrays the character as innocent and naive.
Another highlight would be the eccentric behaviors of foreigner Mr. Paravicini (played by David Pichette), whose Italian accent and habit for mischief keep eveyone staying at the house on their toes.
Yet, the magic of this production - and the wonder of its tenure on stage - is its trickery.
In true whodunit form, Christie's storytelling has the audience believing, at one point or another, that every single character has the motive to kill. Is it one of the Ralstons? Is it Wren - or Paravicini? Or maybe it's someone you'd never expect.
For 60 years, the secret has been kept by those who've seen the show. Hopefully attendees of the Village Theatre production will help keep this tradition alive.
"The Mousetrap" continues at the Francis Gaudette Theater in Issaquah through Feb. 24, and plays in Everett March 1-24. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to the theater's website.