By Howard Shapiro
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Night after night, Agatha Christie’s murder mystery The Mousetrap repeats itself in England — after almost 25,000 performances, the world’s longest-running play. But Wednesday night, the Walnut Street Theatre’s current production of the play had a new surprise ending when Dan Hodge, one of its actors, proposed to his unsuspecting girlfriend at the curtain call.
“It is February 29th, leap year — in fact, leap day. And I’m going to take a leap,” Hodge told the audience and a startled Krista Apple, after she was called to the stage from the audience of about 1,100 people. On his knees, Hodge then said: “Leap year comes around every four years. But a girl like you is once in a lifetime.”
The audience broke into cheers, and Apple answered with a tight hug and long kiss. Hodge gave her a ring made by Paul L. Nolan — a jewelry maker and also an actor in The Mousetrap.
Apple, too, is currently working for the Walnut, in a tour of the company’s recent production of Proof. Wednesday, she was in town for a night off, and finally able to see Hodge in The Mousetrap, which opened five weeks ago.
At the curtain call Wednesday night, just after 10:30, another cast member, Harry Smith, did what he customarily does — he asked the audience never to reveal the ending of the murder mystery. Then he asked if a Krista Apple, somewhere in the house, could come up on stage. Apple, sitting on the aisle in row J on the left side of the Walnut main stage auditorium, looked perplexed as she rose to come forward. Two minutes later, she was beaming after Hodge popped the question.
Hodge and Apple have been an item for almost five years. They met in 2007 when he was playing in Theatre Exile’s Glengarry Glen Ross and she was in the Wilma Theater’s production of The Life of Galileo. Apple shared a dressing room at the Wilma with a friend of Hodge’s, and one night he went to dinner with some of the Galileo cast.
“She sat across from me,” he said in an e-mail note about their relationship. “My friend got me her number and told me she had a huge project due at Temple the following Monday, so not to call Krista until then. Krista called me the next day. We went on one date — Friday night, I think — and that was it.”
A year later, the two moved in together “and we’ve basically been living like a married couple since then,” Hodge wrote in the e-mail. He decided to make it official and another friend, theater artist Charlotte Northeast, suggested he should do so at the theater.
“I’m a huge theater history geek,” Hodge explained, “so there’s something really exciting about the prospect of becoming a part of the history of this major American theater.” What’s more, his new fiancee’s fave play — Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire — had a pre-Broadway tryout at the 203-year-old theater, on the same stage, in 1947. “So there’s something great about proposing to her in the building where that premiered,” Hodge wrote.
Contact Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727, firstname.lastname@example.org, or #philastage on Twitter. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/howardshapiro. Hear his reviews at the Classical Network, www.wwfm.org.