Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

review: THE MOUSETRAP

Toby Zinman found THE MOUSETRAP creaky but fun.

review: THE MOUSETRAP

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By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

That creaky sound you hear is not just a door ominously opening; it’s also the plot of this legendary Agatha Cristie mystery at the Walnut Street Theatre. The play has been running  for an astonishing sixty years—it’s the world’s longest running play, and for the first time, the producers are permitting productions outside London.

Somehow, despite more than 24,500 performances, I managed to miss it until now. And somehow nobody revealed the mystery’s surprise solution, so look for no spoilers here.

It’s a classic opening: in the dark we hear  footsteps, a squeaky door, a scream and a police siren. And it’s a classic setup: a country manor, recently converted into a guest house run by a young couple (Jennie Eisenhower and Dan Hodge). A snowstorm.  Roads impassible. Telephone dead. Five guests, all strangers.

The usual suspects are a grumpy old woman (Judith Knight Young), an annoying foreigner (Laurent Giroux), a flibbertigibbet young man (Eric Bryant), a taciturn army officer (Paul L Nolan) and a young woman who wears men’s clothing (Charlotte Northeast).  There has been a murder (“Homicidal maniac!” the headlines read) of a woman in London, somehow connected to these people.

A policeman (Harry Smith) arrives (on skis!) and the rest of the play is taken up with his questioning, which throws suspicion on each person in turn. Agatha Christie, past mistress of the clue, manages to have each character drop a hint that makes our ears perk up.

And so the play creaks along, doing its old-fashioned thing, in a fine set (designed by  Glen Sears) worthy of Masterpiece Theatre; the place comes equipped with a variety of backstairs and surprising doors. Director Malcolm Black allows the cast to flirt with parody, without ever crossing that line, so it remains a genuine if mild mystery with a genuine if mild surprise.

 Walnut Street Theatre, 9th & Walnut Sts. Through March 4. Tickets $10-80. Information: 215-574-3550 or www.walnutstreettheatre.org

 

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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