Savannah Brooks ‘26
From October 13th to November 6th, The Mousetrap, Agatha Christie’s most famous play, is running at the Hartford Stage to kick off their 2022-2023 season. Directed by Jackson Gay, the celebrated murder mystery follows eight strangers snowed into a bed & breakfast run by Giles and Molly Ralston (Tobias Segal and Sam Morales), one of which committed a murder.
Part of the charm and infamy of The Mousetrap is that, at least until the age of the Internet, “whodunit” is a secret well-kept. At the end of every version, including this one, the murderer steps forward after bowing and asks the audience not to reveal the secret. Admittedly, this may have been more effective in 1952 when the play first premiered on the West End, but now anyone who is interested could simply read the Wikipedia synopsis; however, because it was asked of me by the troupe, this will be a spoiler-free review.
Perhaps partially due to the nature of The Mousetrap being an ensemble piece, there were no clear heavy-hitters in the small cast of eight. Each actor played their respective niche well, though. Morales and Segal played a very convincing 1950s couple: Segal’s jealousy did its job as a comedic element and Morales acted effectively as the main driver of the emotional aspect of the play. Christopher Geary as the endearing oddball, Christopher Ren was certainly an audience favorite. Geary scored most of the night’s laughs and it was refreshing to see him play an unarguably queer version of Ren. Ali Skamangas as Miss Casewell brought a similarly queer take to the historically masculine character and was extraordinarily compelling in the mysterious and traumatized persona she played. Jason O’Connell as the strange Mr. Paravicini shared the vast majority of the comic relief with Geary and brought a strong taste of physical comedy to the show, cleverly using his cane in particular to underscore his ridiculous performance that the audience certainly loved. Brendan Dalton as Detective Sergeant Trotter brought a layered performance and a sort of youth to the classic murder mystery detective role. Greg Stuhr as Major Metcalf was extremely immersive: his various physical and vocal choices did a lot of important work in transporting the audience to the 1950s. Finally, Yvette Ganier as Mrs. Boyle, the “Karen” of the 1950s, was very strong in her character work and was likely hated by the audience even by the end of Act One—meaning she did her job very effectively.
Quite possibly the most striking aspect of The Mousetrap was the set design. The Hartford Stage has an uncommon build in that it is a “thrust stage,” or a stage that is surrounded on all sides by the audience. The set designer, Riw Rakkulchon, took on the challenge in stride with charming old set pieces and an extremely realistic snowy landscape outside the large windows of the house.
The set and costume design were possibly the most striking aspects of the show. The plot, although a famed Agatha Christie masterpiece, is somewhat predictable. This is not a fault of Christie, however, as its predictability was largely due to its use of major murder mystery tropes, which Christie was the founder of. The big ending also seemed to fall flat in this production. Without spoilers, the end requires a large emotional performance from the murderer and several other characters and the emotions were not true enough to reach the audience.
Aside from the ending, The Mousetrap at the Hartford Stage was a lively, vibrant production that garnered a lot of laughter and smiles. If you are interested in visiting the Hartford Stage, visit www.hartfordstage.org. Make sure to use the college student discount!