A Real Whodunit: A Review of NAU’s Production of The Mousetrap

*This blog contains spoilers*

Northern Arizona University’s Department of Theatre opened Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, the longest running play in history and is still being performed on London’s West End, on February 23rd, 2018. NAU’s Studio Theatre was transformed into the home of Giles and Mollie Ralston in 1940’s London, where this infamous murder-mystery story is told. Director Bob Yowell takes on staging this historic, crowd-pleasing piece of theatre. With a cast of some very strong actors, and a design team that collaborated effectively, it’s no wonder the production sold out every performance.

The Mousetrap focuses on Mollie and Giles Ralston who just opened a guest house for tenants to occupy. The morning after tenants arrive, a Inspector Sgt. Trotter arrives to give a warning to Mollie and Giles about a possible murder that may occur in their household. Later that day, it is discovered that Mrs. Boyle has been murdered, and the remainder of the show is a race to solve who killed dear, old, Mrs. Boyle.

Lots of applause and praise should be given to Emily Wood, portraying Mollie Ralston, the play’s heroine. Emily works the stage with grace and gives an exceptionally great Received Pronunciation accent(the Received Pronunciation(RP) is the dialect that the world perceives as “British”and is used as the most basic British accent on stages). Her commitment to the role shows as she carries the play from beginning to end. She is a vision in pink, and truly represents to the audience what it’s like to be a woman in 1940’s London. This was Miss Wood’s first performance on NAU’s main stage, and she truly earned her spot amongst some of the most veteran actors of NAU’s stage.

Two men, Miguel Ochoa as Mr. Paravicini and Robert Quick as Christopher Wren, stole the show. They were the strongest male performers and left the audience remembering their antics after the play had ended. Ochoa’s vibrant and colorful Italian accent made for a memorable performance and dedication to the role’s original inspiration in that of Christie’s stock character, Hercule Poirot. While Hercule Poirot is Belgian, and Mr. Paravicini is Italian, the origins of the character and the ideologies behind the character remain the same. Ochoa’s character research showed, and his research and presentation of such justifies why this character archetype is so memorable in all of Christie’s works. Mr. Quick’s performance of the innocent and childish man, Christopher Wren, warmed the hearts of everyone in the audience. The motivated gracefulness of the character nicely complimented that of the performances of both Miss Wood and Mr. Ochoa.

The costume design by Cameo Gustafson, a senior at NAU, set the period for the audience. The beautiful touches of lace to Mollie’s dress aided to depict an authentic 1940’s outfit while also showing the grace that Mollie had as a woman. The bold choices that Gustafson made with the play’s clown character, Christopher Wren, such as various bright and colorful sock changes, bright contrasting colored shirts and vests, as well as pants that were just a bit too short made for great comedic relief throughout the course of the play like hem. Gustafson’s attention to detail with each costume showed that she really analyzed and researched the period in a way that proved most effective to the story-telling. This was Gustafson’s capstone design project, and it truly displayed her growth and dedication to the art of theatre.

The set design by NAU Faculty member Naoko Skala gives us insight into the period in which the play is set, while also playing with metaphor. The set, shaped like an octagon, symbolized how there are multiple sides to every story. In The Mousetrap’s case, there are eight. Each character, except for the one killed at intermission, is a suspect, and Skala’s octagon-shaped set captures this. Skala’s beautiful set dressings capture the period with a 1940’s style poof(a large, round couch), a beautiful mahogany desk, and various other small details placed throughout the set to really drive home that this play is set in the 1940’s. An interesting not about design choice, the song “Three Blind Mice” recurs throughout the play, and Skala hid 3 tiny mice in the set.

What about the gender bending? By making the murderer a woman, in disguise, it made for an interesting and shocking end to the play. The gender reveal of Kristi Garcia’s Sgt. Trotter in the end of Act II both shocked the audience, and made the audience erupt in applause at the reveal. Many were unsure that the gender bending plot twist was going to work in the development of the production, but with the crafty creations of Yowell, the audience was entranced with the idea of a woman’s journey of trying to reclaim the siblings she lost as a result of being an orphan when she was young. Trotter’s murder of Mrs. Boyle, portrayed by Galen Coburn-Amadio, was justified by the fact that Mrs. Boyle was a key figure in the separation of Trotter’s siblings when they were young. In the original play it’s three brothers who were split up, but in this production it was one sister and two brothers so as to justify why Trotter was in disguise.

All in all, a solid performance of Christie’s The Mousetrap. Miss Wood’s performance, along with her fellow actors, paired with the incredible accomplishments of the design team made for an outstanding sold-out run of NAU’s production of The Mousetrap.

#review #nau #plays

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