PLAY REVIEW: Tryon Little Theater presents a classic Agatha Christie whodunit

Published 12:37 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023

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‘The Mousetrap’ showing November 16-19 at the TLT Workshop Theater


Spoiler Alert! In keeping with the specific request of the writer, the late great Agatha Christie, reading this review of The Mousetrap, the current production of Tryon Little Theater, will not reveal ‘whodunit.’

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It is sufficient to say that you’ll probably never see it coming when the killer is finally revealed in the last few moments of this classic live-stage production. Considering The Mousetrap is the longest-running play in the global history of theater, it is surprising how well kept the secret is.

The Mousetrap is about eight people with very distinct personalities at an English countryside inn during a blizzard. Through radio broadcasts, we know there has been a recent murder in London that is connected to a cold case of child abuse that included the death of one out of three siblings. After a bit of revealing finger-pointing, we come to believe that someone in this motley crew is a murderer.

Although the plot and setting of this play are twisted and intriguing, it is the cast of characters who carry the action and our rapt attention.

The restored inn is owned by a young couple Mollie and Giles Ralston, played by Alannah Updegraff and Alex Tapp. These newlyweds are loving enough, but we can tell they both are hiding something, such as their whereabouts during the murder and who they were prior to tying the knot.

Christopher Wren is a light-in-the-loafers and hyperactive wannabe architect, played by actor newbie Preston Pyatt. I was most impressed with Pyatt’s over-the-top acting debut.

Mrs. Boyle, played by Carol Cox, is a complaining old bat with an upper-crust attitude. She is also the magistrate who sent the three children to live with abusers. No one in the audience cried when she was found dead.

Lou Buttino plays the role of Major Metcalf, an older fellow with a no-nonsense military background, so he says.

Susan Ferguson plays Miss Caswell, a mannish woman with very little say, but she’s always nearby, listening.

Paravicini is a gender-bending Italian played by Darlene Cah. Is he a woman, dressing mostly like a man with obvious make-up? I do believe they suffer from Excessive Personality Disorder. Unlike the other guests, they arrive unexpectedly, saying their car turned over in the snow.

Finally, to fill in some of the cold-case details is Sergeant Trotter, an oddly dedicated detective who arrives on snow skies and comes in through a window. Played by Luke Laughter, Trotter seems to have it all together, but make no mistake about it: He’s stressed.

Director Jim Powell does a fine job of not over-directing a play that is solidly established in the annals of theater. In keeping with his duties and the traditions of the play, his opening remarks remind us to stay hush-hush about the killer when telling friends how great the show is; and how great it is indeed and highly recommended. Tryon Little Theater has once again shown its strength in presenting dramatic classics with local talent.