Classic murder mystery at the Elite
by Jim Spencer and Shirley Lorraine
Since 1952 Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, The Mousetrap, has played continuously in London’s West End. For a brief time, local audiences can enjoy the English classic on stage at the Elite Theatre at Oxnard’s Channel Islands Harbor.
The Mousetrap is arguably one of Christie’s most well-known and beloved plays. Based very loosely on an actual event, the story requires the audience to pay close attention to the goings-on. People are not who they seem to be, the house itself plays a role, and there are surprises throughout.
The Ralstons (Brittany Danyel and Peter Vendehei) are a young couple who have inherited an old house, Monkswell Manor, and decided to try their hand at running a guest house.
On opening day they prepare to receive their first compliment of guests– each decidedly unique and displaying distinctive traits that advance the story. After the guests arrive, Britain’s trademark inclement weather turns to snow and the guests find themselves snowed in, at least for the night.
Eric McGowan plays the first guest, an architecture student who claims his name is Christopher Wren – a peculiar young man; Jennifer Brown forcefully portrays the disagreeable, over bearing and unappeasable, Mrs. Boyle.
British plays from the era seem to boast a retired military man and The Mousetrap is no exception. Andy Brasted gives life to the very military, tweed-wearing, pipe-smoking Major Metcalf, Hanna Mitchell confidently parades as the androgynous Miss Casewell. An additional guest, unexpected and unexplained, in the person of the very Italian Mr. Paravicini, played by Ken Jones, adds a continental flair.
Alexander Schottky appears as police Sergeant Trotter, who has been sent to offer precautionary security following reports of a deranged killer in the area.
Before dinner can be served one guest is murdered and Sergeant Trotter embarks on the unravelling of the many webs surrounding the guests.
The flower-adorned motif of the Monkswell Manor Guest House is appointed with many vintage touches, adding to the overall charm. Director John Eslick worked hard to visually convey the English sense of tradition. While vocal accents are of widely varying quality and consistency, each actor seems to enjoy their individuality thoroughly. Many a subtle eyebrow is raised as clues appear to present themselves. The action moves swiftly as the suspense heightens.
Tradition demands the intricacies of the plot, as well as the ending, not be revealed – so each audience can fully immerse itself in solving the crime. We fully respect this tradition and so, with a mere tut-tut and jolly good, we leave you to attend to learn who-dunit and why.
Be prepared to listen carefully as the language and wording have remained as originally written, not updated in any way. This tends to lean toward the melodramatic in style, as originally intended. Early critics felt some characters were cliché and overdone, and so they are. Just go with it.
The Mousetrap plays through July 3, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $18-$20 for adults, 60+ seniors and students are $15 to $18, and Military with ID are $15. Reservations are recommended. (805) 483-5118. www.elitetheatre.org.