The Old Gal Looks Good for 60
Kansas City Actors Theatre
Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" is 60 years old and it's still a corking piece of entertainment. Christie's work still has the ability to surprise and charm after all these years, and is still the longest running show in the world coming from its original production in England. It's a record unlikely to be ever broken. Kansas City Actor's Theatre has mounted a sumptuous and loving production of this at Union Station's H & R Block City Stage. The set design, with its falling snow, is beautiful to look and generally the tech design of the production is top notch. Add to this a cast of some of Kansas City's best professional actors and get ready for a great evening of entertainment.
Due to the nature of the show, it's almost impossible to describe any of the action without giving away the fun twist and turns of the plot. A young married couple, Mollie Ralston (Natalie Liccardello) and Giles Ralston are celebrating the opening day of their inn, Monkswell Manor. First day reservations include the strange, fey Christopher Wren (Matt Weiss), retired Army officer Major Metcalf (Gary Neal Johnson), disagreeable retiree Mrs. Boyle (Peggy Friesen), and mannish mystery woman Miss Casewell (Emily Peterson). Add to this list surprise guest Mr. Paravicini (Victor Raider-Wexler), a talkative Italian with an overturned car and a tendency to be vague.
A snowstorm traps our guest in this location, and a phone call from Scotland Yard announces the visit of Inspector Trotter (Rusty Sneary) who arrives on skis and has a great many questions about a murder in London which occurred the previous day. No one is forthcoming and everyone has secrets.
Natalie Liccardello is quite wonderful in the leading role of Mollie Ralston, a recently married innkeeper trying to keep herself together in the face of impending disaster and death. Her role has to do a great deal with advancing the plot, and Liccardello is a solid charming performer. Charles Fugate is nearly perfectly cast as her husband, a stolid middle class Brit.
Rusty Sneary does dazzling work as the anxious police Sergeant, a man tasked with getting information from a group of people who are simply not forthcoming. His frustration is palpable.
Matt Weiss is certainly miscast as the effeminate Christopher Wren, but makes a meal of the part anyway, providing some of the funniest and most touching moments in the play.
The more mature cast members give solid, pleasant performances. The great Gary Neal Johnson is a strong Major Metcalf, Peggy Friesen is quite fun as the dreadful Mrs. Boyle, and Victor Raider-Wexler is delightful as the mysterious Paravicini.
The standout performance, to my eyes, was Emily Peterson. Normally a charismatic ingénue, Ms. Peterson really gets a chance to stretch as Miss Casewell, alternately amusing and chilling. She had me laughing in act one, dancing around the room to chase out an annoying fellow guest.
The script occasionally shows its age. There are long stretches of exposition in act two which left me wishing for the play to just get on with it. And the capper of the show, which is part "Gift of the Magi" and part "Donna Reed" show is one of the few times when the play's ancient roots begin to show.
The show is part of KCAT's Summer of Mystery and runs through August 26th. Tickets may be purchased through the website at www.kcactors.org or by calling Central Ticket Office at (816) 235-6222.