Trish Mulholland as Mrs. Boyle, Alex Rodriguez as Mr. Paravincini, Nick Medina as Christopher Wren, Karen Offereins as Miss Casewell, Adam Magill as Detective Sergeant Trotter, and David Sinaiko as Major Metcalf. Photo: Pak Han
Trish Mulholland as Mrs. Boyle, Alex Rodriguez as Mr. Paravincini, Nick Medina as Christopher Wren, Karen Offereins as Miss Casewell, Adam Magill as Detective Sergeant Trotter, and David Sinaiko as Major Metcalf in Shotgun Players’ production of The Mousetrap. Photo: Pak Han

Since 1952, London audiences have been frightened, surprised and delighted by Dame Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, and Shotgun Player’s audience will be no exception. Under the talented direction of Shotgun’s Artistic Director, Patrick Dooley, with an outstanding cast and an elaborate stage set, this quintessential country house murder mystery seems as fresh, engaging and mysterious as it did 63 years ago.

Giles Ralston (Mick Mize) and Mollie Ralston (Megan Trout), recently married after a brief courtship, inaugurate their guest house, Monkswell Manor, during a severe snowstorm. We meet their four expected guests, the outwardly charming but inwardly neurotic, Christopher Wren (Nick Medina), a young wanna-be architect whose parents had a bad sense of humor, the supercilious and cantankerous Mrs. Boyle (Trish Mulholland), the blustery retired Major Metcalf (David Sinaiko) and the morose Miss Sara Casewell (Karen Offereins). The innkeepers do not know anything about their guests, except that, presumably, they each have seven guineas per week to pay for their room and board.

In the midst of the dreadful storm, an unexpected guest arrives. Mr. Paravichini (Alex Rodriguez), seeking shelter for the night, explains that he had to abandon his car in the now impassable roads. Luckily, the Ralstons have a small room left for him. But who really is this unusual man wearing makeup and speaking with a strange accent? 

One more person will make an appearance. Detective Sergeant Trotter (Adam Magill) of the local police constabulary comes to the house with shocking news. A women who has been murdered in London is linked to a child’s tragic death. And the killer left a clue — the location of his/her next victims, which is none other than Monkswell Manor.

Thus, the stage is set for a delicious, cozy mystery, with no blood or gore and a limited number of well-dressed, intelligent, sane or eccentric suspects. There are surprising revelations as the guests realize that the murderer is one of them. If you watch very carefully, the murderer might become apparent, although the ending may well surprise you. But remember, you must keep Dame Agatha’s secret, and not reveal the villain to the uninitiated.

The Mousetrap began life as a short radio play in 1947, which Christie entitled, Three Blind Mice. One can download a fine audio version of the radio play from the Berkeley Public Library.

Shotgun’s Dooley obviously appreciates the late 1940s characteristics of the play since the production is true to its period, including its references to ration cards. Yet a bit of tongue in cheek sneaks through without diminishing the mystery. A proscenium stage was constructed (set design Mark Hueske) with a covering screen on which is drawn an artistic theatrical curtain. The detailed stage set with a sturdy wooden stairway, sprinkled with period furniture and bric-a-brac, looks authentic. The 1940/1950s costumes complete the look.

All the actors seemed to be relishing their roles and were excellent in them. Medina was absolutely charming as Christopher Wren. Rodriguez was appropriately inscrutable as the insouciant Mr. Paravichini. Megan Trout, playing Mollie Ralston, was terrific and seems to improve with each of her Shotgun performances.

The two act, two hour and 20 minute drama flew by. Trying to figure out who did it and why was the talk of intermission. Luckily, The Mousetrap has already been extended to Jan. 17. Now you have no excuse not to see and savor this perfect-for-the-holidays, longest-running-ever mystery right here at home.

The Mousetrap is playing at Shotgun’s Ashby Stage through Jan. 24. For information, extended dates and tickets, visit Shotgun Players.

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Emily S. Mendel

Freelancer Emily S. Mendel reviews Berkeley’s vibrant theater scene for Berkeleyside. As a native New Yorker (although now a 37-year East Bay resident), Emily grew up loving and studying theater, from...