“Three blind mice. Three blind mice. See how they run. See how they run…” And so the play begins in darkness, with a nursery rhyme and a scream.
Agatha Christie’s murder mystery The Mousetrap twists the already gruesome and disturbing nursery rhyme and takes it to a whole new level. Carnegie Mellon students swarmed the Cohon Center Studio Theater this past weekend to see Scotch'n'Soda’s production of Christie’s play, directed by junior computer science student Will Walters and first-year electrical and computer engineering student Kai Huizenga.
The stage is set on a frigid day in England at Monkswell Manor, where Mollie Ralston and her husband Giles are setting up their newly converted guesthouse for their first slew of patrons. With their guests arriving any minute, Mollie and Giles — played by first-year Dietrich student Hannah Cornish and junior information systems major Walter Donnellan respectively — are eager to have everything in order. Yet, a message on the radio warns of the trouble soon to come. If the Ralstons weren’t already anxious enough about their new business venture, the news of a murderer on the loose in the area certainly does the trick in worrying the couple. Quickly, however, they must compose themselves as their first guests begin to appear at the door.
In comes the strange and misunderstood Christopher Wren, played by senior and Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts student Alyss Weissglass. Later follows haughty old Mrs. Boyle, played by junior decision science and psychology student Heather Graci, with friendly Major Metcalf, portrayed by first-year engineering student Julien Buron. With Mrs. Boyle horrified by the Ralstons’ lack of experience and staff, a lot of pressure is building amongst the residents and their hosts. Just as they begin to settle in and Miss Casewell — their final expected guest, played by first-year biochemistry major Emily Schneider and first-year Dietrich College student and understudy Zoe Marshall — arrives, another knock at the door reveals a mysterious guest. Confused and a bit overwhelmed by the boisterous foreigner, Mollie Ralston still accepts Mr. Paravicini, played by first-year chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, and english student Olivia Olshevski, under her roof despite not knowing anything about him. She then realizes that she knows next to nothing about the guests that now occupy her house. And so the day ends, the guests are snowed in, and the police show up. Detective Sergeant Trotter, played by junior music student Jordan Speranzo, announces that the murderer is among them, and chaos ensues. The killer is still waiting to kill the last two mice, and anyone could be the murderer or the one in danger. Nobody is safe from harm, and nobody is safe from the scrutiny of the rest of the Monkswell occupants, particularly when all are harboring secrets. So who could the killer be?
To be honest, I’m not usually a fan of mysteries, but this one definitely kept me on my toes and surprised me. In the past, I’ve been pretty good at figuring mysteries out, but this show was different. You quickly learn to trust no one. As a good mystery should, there are so many twists and turns that force you to question everyone’s intentions. By the end, I had no idea who was in danger or who the killer was.
Each character was fascinating and many were delightfully quirky, bringing laughter to the audience amidst the dark themes and tragic backstories revealed throughout the show. I equally enjoyed and was annoyed by Mrs. Boyle’s continuously scathing and cynical commentary and Mr. Paravacini’s ridiculous antics.
Each actor seemed to be the perfect fit for their respective roles, with no character or actor seeming to outshine the rest. All commanded the stage in their own way and complemented each other superbly.
While the acting was absolutely fantastic, one of the most notable things about the show was the layout of the set. Typically, audiences are separated from the performance due to distance, elevation, and other factors, but here everyone was so close to the stage that it felt like we were almost part of the show. The audience was on the same level as the stage, and while difficult to see from the back at times, the effect overall was a positive one. Not only was the audience on the same ground as the performance, but the walls of the manor extended into the audience as well, making the setting more intimate and drawing viewers into the scene even more.
The overall talent of the Scotch’n’Soda cast and crew always blows me away. From the incredible set design that brought the scenes to life to the brilliant cast that truly embraced their characters, Scotch'n'Soda’s production of the The Mousetrap was a successfully chilling and humorous murder mystery.