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Mouse Trap Mystifies

At Arthur Newman Theatre, in Palm Desert, California.

By: Jack Lyons - 11/09/2013

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(from left) Briana Taylor, Luke Rainey, Hal O’Connell, Don Cilluffo, and Shawn Abramowitz – (center) Stephen McMillen -PHOTO CREDIT (Courtesy of Kat Anderson)
(from left) Briana Taylor, Luke Rainey, Hal O’Connell, Don Cilluffo, and Shawn Abramowitz – (center) Stephen McMillen -PHOTO CREDIT (Courtesy of Kat Anderson)

The play written by Agatha Christie, which opened in November of 1952, is billed as the longest, continuously running play in theatre history. If I do the math correctly that’s sixty-one years. That’s a lot of performances.

I shudder when I think back to the first time I saw “The Mousetrap”. It was in London in 1953. It was considered one of the hottest show in the West End, and if I do the math again, that’s sixty years ago! Time really does fly. If you’ve never seen a performance of this classic murder mystery with its dialogue and its plot twists, you can remedy that by attending a performance at the Arthur Newman Theatre, in Palm Desert.

Directed by Lance Phillips-Martinez, with a nice functional set and costumes by Ron Phillips-Martinez, and a lighting design (clever lighting is must for murder-mystery’s) by the reliable Doug Ridgeway, audiences are transported back in time to an English manor house just 30 miles from London during the early 1950’s.

The play where ‘murder most foul’ takes place opened Friday, November 1st at the Arthur Newman Theatre. When the plot and dialogue begins to heat up, some of the English accents employed by the seven American actors in the company become a bit wobbly. But, let’s just chalk that up to opening night jitters.

On the other hand, the dialogue volume between the characters could have benefited from director Phillips-Martinez’s intervention if he, perhaps, had orchestrated and modulated their deliveries for tone and volume (less shouting at one another). When actors begin to speak at the top their vocal ranges, there is usually little room left for character growth and nuanced performances. Besides, the Newman Theatre is a comfortable medium-size venue and there’s little need for vigorous projecting.

The above being said, “The Mousetrap” still has some nice moments, just not enough of them. However, there are nice individual turns from the ensemble cast: Shawn Abramowitz as Giles and Ashley Hernandez as Molly his wife, the owners of Monkwell Manor, the site where all the action in the play takes place.

From Luke Rainey as manor guest Wren, a troubled young man with problems; Alden West as Mrs. Boyle, another guest at Monkwell who leaves the proceedings all to soon, but before she goes she is spot on with her British accent throughout.

Guest Hal O’Connell as Major Metcalf looks quite comfy with his cane and his accent; Briana Taylor as Miss Casewell the odd and aloof guest at the manor; Don Cilluffo, as the mysterious Mr. Paravicini, who claims his automobile crashed into a snow drift and is just waiting at the manor for assistance, and Stephen McMillen as Detective Sergeant Trotter who conducts the interrogation of the manor guests following the murder of Mrs. Boyle.

Even when the creaky plot and text show cracks from the aging process the underlying truth and portrayals continue to resonate; validating Christie’s work, which remains intact. “The Mousetrap” runs at the Arthur Newman Theatre through November 10th. Call 760-980-1455for reservations and information.

Reposted courtesy of Jack Lyons and Desert Local News.

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