Originally a short radio play broadcast in 1947 called “The Three Blind Mice,” the story matured into an Agatha Christie short story – and finally emerged as THE MOUSETRAP. The iconic mystery premiered in London in November 1952 and ran to 1974, when it was transferred to a larger London theater and continued with non-stop performances. In 2012, THE MOUSETRAP celebrated performance number 26,000. The original cast included Richard Attenborough, who would later achieve fame in film.
It is not commonly known that the plot of THE MOUSETRAP was based on the true story of Dennis O’Neil, who died after he and his brother suffered extreme abuse while in the foster care of a farmer and his wife in 1945. From this almost forgotten tragedy grew the longest running play in British history. The play is set in the “present,” actually 1952, just eight years after the end of World War II.
THE MOUSETRAP is a classic murder mystery filled with twists and turns. In fact, the tradition for secrecy has grown over the years – so that now, at the conclusion of each performance, the audience is sometimes told not to disclose how the play ends so that future audiences can also enjoy the surprising conclusion. Set at Monkswell Manor, proprietors Mollie and Giles Ralston (Tavish Grade and Todd Andrew Ball) are welcoming the first guests to their newly established bed and breakfast inn. Even as they hustle and bustle to get ready, a radio announcer intones breaking news about an unexplained murder in the city – obviously a story that has nothing to do with them – or does it?
The first guest to arrive is Christopher Wren (Peter Henry Bussian), a hyperactive and strange young man who has problems sitting still. He is soon followed by Mrs. Boyle (Lareen Faye), an elderly sourpuss who can’t be pleased; Major Metcalf (Chris Winfield), a retired army officer; Miss Casewell (Anica Petrovic), an aloof young woman with a tragic past; Mr. Paravicini (Hisato Masuyama), a passer-by stranded in a snow storm; and Detective Sergeant Trotter (Alec Helton), a detective seeking information.
When all the principals are settled in, the mystery gains momentum as the lights fade and the first victim departs this mortal plane. But why? And who committed the murder? Clues that don’t seem to make sense begin to pile up. Little by little, the residents of Monkswell Manor start to realize that any one of them just might be next. To paraphrase the child’s ditty – if there were three blind mice, why have two been murdered? And who will be the third?
Mareli Mitchel-Shields’s set is charming, a cozy little English manor with secrets in every corner. Douglas Gabrielle’s lighting, Steve Shaw’s sound, and Angela M. Eads’s costumes fit the bill and carry the audience back over 60 years. Clearly, there’s trouble afoot as Detective Trotter tries to sort through lots of dead ends to reach the truth. Audience alert: The ending is a secret, so mum’s the word.
THE MOUSETRAP runs through November 13, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Group Rep performs at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $35 (seniors/students $30; 10+ parties $25). For information and reservations, call 818-763-5990 or go online.