For the past 60 years Agatha Christie and her estate have made protecting the secret of "The Mousetrap" a full-time job, in some cases taking legal action against the bean spillers. If you already know whodunit, it's difficult to lose yourself in the story. But ProArts has done it again: found a perfect little show for its intimate space, hired a great director and cast the most seasoned actors available on Maui. It seems like a pretty simple formula, yet it's Jonathan Lehman and ProArts that is quietly building a true professional reparatory theater company.
Director Kristi Scott is exceptional at blocking action and movement, usually for comedic effect, but in the case of "Mousetrap" her style of constant crossing movement aids in heightening the suspense. Maui has two catch-22s that can be problematic for every production company. One, consistency with accents, and two, casting out of type. A director must decide: Do I cast the person that looks the part but doesn't act as well or cast the best actor that doesn't look the part? Scott wisely cast the best actors for "Mousetrap." Real-life couple Chris and Jennifer Rose play newlyweds Giles and Mollie Ralston, who've recently inherited Monkswell Manor, a country estate just outside of London. The Ralstons have opened the home to traveling guests, and "Mousetrap" takes place over their first weekend in business.
Jennifer Rose is marvelous as Mollie, embodying the stiff upper lip but friendly post-War English woman archetype. Chris Rose is perhaps cast in unfamiliar territory but maintains a solid stage presence as the mild-mannered and slightly scatterbrained new hotel proprietor. There's not a lot an actor can do with Giles, and Chris Rose seems more in his element when Giles develops a backbone and sticks up for Mollie and himself.
Felicia Chernicki and Francis Tau‘a are pictured in a scene from ProArts’ production of “The Mousetrap.”
Dylan Bode is very funny as quirky guest Christopher Wren. Modern slang might describe Wren as metrosexual, and Bode makes the wise choice to go big with the absurdity of his character. Rose Roselinsky is the perfect foil to Wren as Mrs. Boyle, the cranky, never satisfied, annoying customer. Roselinsky, the consummate pro, has the talent to steal any show with her comic abilities. By understating Mrs. Boyle, she adds more power to the ensemble-based production. Dale Button, another born ham, offers the same astute choice quietly portraying the boring-as-dry-white-toast Major Metcalf. Button does this so well you almost forget to consider Metcalf while armchair detecting in the audience. Felicia Chernicki plays the mysterious and masculine Miss Casewell. Chernicki's exotic look and height are well-utilized and again another wise acting choice to make Casewell big and odd, further muddying the mystery. Mark Collmer plays Mr. Paravicini like a bizarre, slightly creepy clown. My one beef with Christie's play is that perhaps Mr. Paravicini is unnecessary and under-explained. Collmer plays the Italian stereotypical character very well, but it seems Scott and he are unsure of what to do with him.
A murder has taken place in London. A revenge-minded serial killer is on the loose, and Scotland Yard's only clue is the address of Monkswell Manor. Detective Sergeant Trotter (Francis Tau'a) arrives in a snowstorm to interrogate the trapped guests. Tau'a is mesmerizing as Trotter. The problem with critiquing is that you run out of praise when you see true greatness. Tau'a is so good that now that I have seen him play Trotter, I believe the entire production would have fallen short without him. We're only halfway through the 2011-12 season, but if there was a Maui version of a Tony, Tau'a would be the front runner for best actor.
There are so many shows, concerts and events happening in the coming weeks. It would be easy to dismiss one or two productions for lack of free time - don't make "The Mousetrap" one of them. From the fun and detailed scenic design by Caro Walker, thorough quality costuming by Sarah Loney and top-notch character commitment by the talented cast, "The Mousetrap" is worth getting caught up in.
* "The Mousetrap," a murder mystery play by Agatha Christie, continues through March 4 at the ProArts Playhouse. Shhh, it's a theater tradition to keep the ending a secret. Directed by Kristi Scott and featuring Rose Roselinsky, Dale Button, Mark Collmer, Jennifer Rose, Christopher Rose, Dylan Bode, Felicia Chernicki and Francis Tau'a. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Reserved seats for adults are $20; students 18 and under are $15. Ask about ProArts' $15 tickets for Kama'aina Night tonight with valid Hawaii ID. For reservations or more information, call 463-6550 or visit proartspacific.com.