Theatre Reviews
Photo by John Lamb courtesy of Stray Dog Theatre

Agatha Christie is well-known as the queen of the "Whodunit", and "The Mousetrap" is one of her most well-known works. It's especially notable because the original production is still running in London after more than 70 years. It's also an excellent showcase for actors, and Stray Dog Theatre has assembled an especially strong cast for their latest production, directed by Gary F. Bell and featuring some striking visuals in addition to the usual murder-mystery plot.

Taking place in the English countryside, outside of London but within a reasonably short distance, the show features a mid-20th Century setting and, as is usual for Christie, memorable characters and a good deal of intrigue. As young couple, Mollie and Giles Ralston prepare to open their cavernous old house, Monkswell Manor, as a guest house, two notable events happen as they await their guests--a snowstorm and a murder. The storm helps add to the suspense as the collection of characters soon become stranded together at the house, and the news of a murder in London brings up memories of a tragic story from years before to which that crime is apparently connected. What's more, when Detective Sergeant Trotter arrives on skis, he announces that the perpetrator is still on the loose, and there's reason to believe that the killer has fled to Monkswell Manor, and that anyone connected to the earlier case could be in danger. Of course, the guests all have their secrets, but soon there is another murder, and the tension ramps up, as the characters race to solve the mystery before the killer can strike again.

The cast is excellent, with all playing their characters with degrees of complexity and distinctive personality. Claire Coffey and Sean Seifert display strong chemistry as Mollie and Giles, the hopeful young couple who are soon driven to suspicion of one another by the determined Sergeant Trotter, played with impressive intensity by Drew Mizell. The rest of the cast is also strong, including Jason Heil as the sensitive and excitable Christopher Wren, Julie Healey as the strict Mrs. Boyle, David Wassilak as the even-tempered Major Metcalf, Shannon Campbell as the gruff and secretive Miss Casewell, and Matt Anderson as the especially mysterious "surprise" guest Mr. Paravacini. The interplay between the characters adds much to the suspense and tension of the play, as do their wildly contrasting personalities.

The staging is well-paced and thrilling, making use of the remarkably detailed two-level set by Richard Brown and Dominic Emery and the atmospheric lighting by Tyler Duenow. There's also excellent work from sound designer Justin Been, adding to the building tension of the story. The costumes, by Colleen Michelson, are especially memorable, as well, using a bright palette of colors and giving each character a distinctive color, reminiscent of Clue to a degree.

Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" may be an oft-performed show, but Stray Dog Theatre has put its own stamp on it here, with a strong cast and just the right balance between thrilling mystery and moments of needed comic relief. It works well in the Tower Grove Abbey space, and the cast keeps up the energy to the last moment. For fans of old-fashioned murder mystery, this should be an especially appealing production.

Performances of Agatha Christie’s "The Mousetrap”, from Stray Dog Theatre, continue at the Tower Grove Abbey until February 17. For more information, visit

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