by Shirley Lorraine
Murder at the Manor in Conejo’s the Mousetrap
Some classics never get old. Agatha Christie’s quintessential who-done-it The Mousetrap is one of them. Hailed as the longest running play in London’s West End, Mousetrap finally closed in 2020, earning a 68-year continuous run. That’s quite an achievement.
Conejo Players in Thousand Oaks is offering local enthusiasts an opportunity to see what the fuss has been and continues to be about, now through August 12.
A solid cast directed by seasoned Conejo stalwart Jim Diderrich embodies the quirky characters that have given this play its success. The twisty, intricate plot has been the victim of countless iterations since its inception in 1952 but remains the gold standard of murder mysteries everywhere.
Monkswell Manor is newly reopened by a young, inexperienced couple who have no staff. The inn’s rooms are full and the boarders straggle in, finding themselves stuck there by a fierce blizzard. Chaos ensues as a murder is committed and everyone immediately becomes a suspect. A Detective arrives to sort out the situation. As the interviews are conducted, we learn about each of the characters and some of the secrets they are hiding. Along the way are many hints, twists and turns and still a surprising ending.
The Ralston couple, played by Paula Smiech and Andrew Costello, are suitably alternately confident and confused as they do their best to stay on top of the many needs of their guests. They have much to learn about running an inn business, and about each other.
Matt Hudacs as the flighty Christopher Wren is a bundle of nervous energy. He fairly bounces across the stage as he tries hard to fit in., to no avail. The staid, criticize everything Mrs. Boyle is played to perfection by Judy Diderrich. Andy Brasted as Major Metcalf gives a sterling performance of controlled restraint, as a British Major should. Character Miss Casewell, well played by Elisha DeVillier, adds further elements of surprise in many ways.
Unexpected guest Mr. Paravicini is delightfully ebullient in the form of Dale Alpert. Detective Sergeant Trotter, played by Alex Greene, is a conundrum in himself, raising more questions than answers throughout.
The pace is quick. The British accents are well done. The characters are cheeky and fun. In all, even if you’ve seen it before (or many like it), the result is an evening well spent. Rediscover why The Mousetrap enjoyed such a long run in London, and still enjoys performances around the world.
The Mousetrap runs Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. There will be a 2:00 p.m. matinee on Saturday, August 12. www.conejoplayers.org, (805) 495-3715
The following weekend offers the Conejo Improv Festival. Begins at 7 p.m. on Friday August 18 and at 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 19. Two FREE workshops are offered on Saturday the 19th. 1 p.m., scene work for adults, and 3 p.m. Introduction to improv for youth ages 6-17. See website www.conejoplayers.org for complete run-down and tickets.