Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap at Scottsdale's Desert Stages Will Catch You

Mousetrap.jpg
Wade Moran
The unusual suspects
The setup: Agatha Christie may not have been the first mystery writer to maroon a bunch of strangers in a house together, tell them one of them is a murderer and some of the rest of them are potential victims, and then just let the secrets and paranoia do all the work. But she was definitely a master of those time-honored tricks of the genre.

The Mousetrap, a play Christie wrote based on her own radio script and short story, has been running in London's West End, currently at St. Martin's Theatre, since 1952 -- 25,000 performances and counting. It's currently also playing at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre, and they've already extended the run once, so I suppose 60-plus years is possible, but I wouldn't hold my breath. (The show's not bad at all, but I don't hold my breath in general.)

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The execution: This is a genuinely old and old-fashioned (not to mention U.K. English) play, and it probably couldn't even work if the company didn't embrace that. The small, snowbound guest house (kind of like a B&B, but with all meals included) that is the setting is already an old building during the action. So all of the carrying around of wood and the mysterious "coke," the adjusting of heat to each radiator, making sure pipes don't freeze, etc., is important to setting up that "where were you at the time" convention that crime stories must have.

Too often at community theaters, no one ever bothers to tell the actors they need to look up all those strange words that are now lost to history or cultural differences and find out what they mean so they know what they're doing and discussing on stage. (How to keep an old house warm in the early 1940s is only one example.) Director Mark-Alan C. Clemente (Art) and his team have made sure that just about everything makes sense to the cast, which means it makes sense to the audience, which is a huge plus.

(I'm not sure that Virginia Olivieri, as Mollie, really was carrying a carpet sweeper through the front parlor when she was accused of having done so. But maybe she did it a few minutes before the scene started. And in Desert Stages' Actors Cafe, you can't see everything from every seat.)

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Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre

4720 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, AZ

Category: General

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