By Sheri Berger
The Mousetrap, The Lofte Community Theatre, Friday September 1, 2023
Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned sleuthy Agatha Christie mystery with many red herrings? It’s a wonderful choice for this time of year, when autumn begins lovely colors and spooky stories start to emerge. I encourage you to read this article and then read no further on the internet about this play. Don’t let anyone spoil it for you. There are no spoilers in this article, so after reading, it’s best to just go see it!
Because I have connections in the cast and the theatre itself, I had stayed away from volunteering to review this production, because I’m always fortunate to find other theatres in the area with amazing productions to volunteer to write for. But as circumstance would have it, I was the most likely volunteer to fill in at the last minute for the reviewer of this play, which I’m happy to do. So to be fair to everyone, this is more of a “response” than a review. This production is lovely, and the talent and hard work of the cast and crew deserves recognition in Appearing Locally. The cast members are fully engaged and have been off-book for weeks. The pace is appropriately smooth throughout. The set is stunning, as only Kevin Colbert, the Lofte Community Theatre’s Artistic Director, and his team can do. And the food and drinks at the Lofte make great seat companions for this charming play.
When most people hear about The Mousetrap, they might feel like it’s familiar to them and not quite be able to recall details. So here is some fun history: In 1947 in England, Queen Mary, who was married to King George V, asked Agatha Christie to write a short story for her 80th birthday. Christie happily accepted this invitation and wrote a 30 minute radio show for the BBC which was broadcast that same year. It was titled Three Blind Mice. Unfortunately, a recording of this radio show doesn’t exist for us today.
In 1948 Agatha Christie turned Three Blind Mice into a short story, published in a United States Cosmopolitan Magazine and then later published it in the United States in a book called Three Blind Mice and Other Short Stories. In 1952, Christie adapted it into a UK play, The Mousetrap, which had its world premiere at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham. It was then performed in London on the West End until 1974, when it transferred its performances to a larger theatre next door called St. Martin’s Theatre where it still runs to this day.
I’m certain that murder mysteries written after The Mousetrap, like Clue and other suspense stories, have garnered inspiration from many of Agatha Christie’s works. Christie gathered her inspiration for this story on real-life news of the day, where three foster children were neglected and abused in foster care, resulting in one of the young boys dying of starvation. This real-life event changed the laws around foster care in England. No doubt, Christie knew there needed to be change, and she donated her fee of 100 Guineas for writing Three Blind Mice to the Southport Infirmary Children’s Toy Fund.
History aside, The Mousetrap is still a well-loved classic. It’s great if you want to have a fun sleuthy night out, immersing yourself in the era and the storyline. It’s also great if you want to expand your foundation of theatre, or cross off this classic from your bucket list. The Lofte Community Theatre’s production of this play is a great place to experience it for whatever your reasons.
The chemistry of the actors in this production is notable from the patrons’ seats. Newcomer, Victoria Ashley, eloquently and believably plays Mollie Ralston who is a focal point in this story. She is strikingly beautiful, and her on-stage husband, Giles Ralston, played by Matt Cummins, does a wonderful job at playing a character who is a tad arrogant, yet truly insecure as he is often jealous but still passionate about his marriage and supportive of his wife. Matt Cummins has a quiet yet commanding presence as an actor and has a nice chemistry with Victoria and her character, Mollie. This couple carries the whole show, they set up the story and are the home-base of the show.
Stan Tracey played the part of the suspicious foreigner, Mr. Paravicini, whose character often serves as a buffer between the other characters when they are in conflict. Almost as a comical nod to Agatha Christie’s own earlier works, Christie makes Mr. Paravicini the “unexpected guest” of Monkswell Manor. The Mousetrap is the proverbial murder mystery where the characters are held up in a large old mansion, with weather not permitting them outside, and someone is in danger. Mr. Paravicini is an overly jovial character, with a foreign accent who doesn’t take anything too seriously and he seems to have no stakes in anything. Stan plays this unusual guest eloquently, and balances being charming yet also creepy, and he creates an easiness about his character. Stan is a newcomer to the Lofte, yet he is an experienced actor, and has worked in many productions in several Omaha theatres, including the 2022 OEAA award winning play, An Honest Man with the Florentine Players.
Deanna Walz, also a writer for Appearing Locally, plays the awful Mrs. Boyle impeccably. You want to like her character, but you just can’t. Her character is the epitome of stuffiness, criticism, and lack of sympathy. However, I have to say as a knitter myself, I am so pleased when I get to watch someone on-stage knit for real, instead of the fake knitting. My OCD can’t take watching someone act-knitting, and watching Deanna act gives me a sigh of relief, so that I can believably sit back and watch her wonderful acting and real-life knitting at the same time. Seriously, you don’t know how happy this makes me.
Bill Bossman plays the character Major Metcalf. Bill is an experienced performer who has credits at many area theatres. He can always be trusted to play parts that show a refined character, sometimes gentle and sometimes rigid. He has acted at the Lofte before in several productions, most notably in the 2022 production of Visiting Mr. Green. Mr. Bossman is a wonderful part of this ensemble cast.
Anne Pope plays Miss Caswell, a character who has a hard exterior and dislike for people probably based on the fact that she has had trauma in her past. She likes to dress in pants, a vest and a tie, yet her character is from a family of privilege and money. Anne brings a great comedic timing to her scenes, and also great emotion to the scenes that demand it as well.
Nick Herink plays Sgt. Trotter. Nick and Victoria have a wonderful chemistry together in their scenes, and you’ll find those scenes a delight. Nick is impressive in his style and accent, and has a clear and concise way of speaking. Lines for a detective tend to have a lot of explanation and can be dry, but Nick accepts this challenge, has a charismatic way of delivering his detective explanations and making them palatable and engaging.
And lastly, Chris Berger plays Christopher Wren. My response to his performance is one of great fun. Christopher is obviously a man-child, very quirky, and has some past trauma in the military and his family life that shows through to his present day. He will appear disheveled and a tad crazed, which is great fun and yet another amusing character in this story.
The Production Staff was on-point in this production, with many sound and light cues to attend to. Lily Pope is the Stage Manager, Kathryn Cover is the Costume Coordinator, Properties were done by Chris Berger, Sound Design and Board by Nick Haussler, Lighting Design by Aaron Spracklin, Light Board, Scenic Design and Technical Director by the busy Kevin Colbert, who is also the Artistic Director, Scenic Artist by Linda Dabbs, and the warm and homey set was completed by the Set Crew: Bill Smith, Jon Kruse, Frank Milder, Jeff Johnston, Kevin Colbert, Scott Pope, Anne Pope, Gus Pope, Jim Wolcott, Ed Daeges, Ken Patry, Linda Dabbs, Aaron Spracklin, and Chris Berger.
Don’t miss this immersive Agatha Christie experience and try to guess “whodunit.” This is a delightful play that has run on-stage for over 60 years!
If you go: Remaining shows are Saturday, September 2nd at 7PM, Sunday, September 3rd at 2PM. Thursday, September 7th at 7PM (Thursdays are half-price at the door, as long as seats are available), Friday and Saturday, September 8th and 9th at 7PM, and Sunday, September 10th at 2PM. Ticket info at https://www.lofte.org.
Sheri Berger is a business minion, dog momma, arts groupie, and co-host of the Platte River Bard Podcast with her husband, Chris Berger.
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