After a humorous turn off your cellphone message worthy of a Chicago’s Greatest Hits compilation of such, the stately parlor set (Scenic Designer: Arnel Sancianco) comes alive with husband and wife (Giles Ralston played by Allen Gilmore and Mollie Ralston played by Kate Fry) readying their mansion for its first turn as a guest house. They are each nervous in their own way. Giles inserts the question any proprietor of a hotel imagined by murder mystery master Agatha Christie should ask. To paraphrase-- Perhaps they should have vetted their guests a tad more before booking their stays??
Court Theatre Enlists Tragicomedy Master
Then these guests begin to arrive, in wardrobes (Costume Design: Alison Siple) that telegraph what Director Sean Graney has in mind for us. Improbably named Christopher Wren (Alex Goodrich) barges in like a golfer who orange-dyed his green garb to create a new kind of clown chic matching his bozo-with-a-part coif. Then—before Carolyn Ann Hoerdemann as Mrs. Boyle utters her first complaint to quickly establish herself as the kvetch all love to hate—her leopard couture with vintage winged eyeglasses loudly confirms what we suspected after meeting Wren---THIS IS AGATHA CHRISTIE RE-IMAGINED THROUGH THE CAMPIEST OF CAMP LENSES. This writer imagines the fun that follows is possible only because Court enlisted tragicomedic master Graney—most known for his 12-hour distillation of all the Greek Tragedies (All My Tragic)— to envision and deliver this circa now update to Christie’s classic.
Agatha Christie’s script gives Graney —and the many dozens (hundreds?) —of global productions since its opening —a lot with which to work. How sly of Christie to make Mrs. Boyle’s chief complaint that any proper guesthouse would have servants. After all, don’t we know that in the end it is always the butler who did it? NO SPOILERS HERE! You’ll have to banish yourself to a few hours of pure enjoyment to get to the bottom of this whodunit. In this writer’s view, you will be no worse for the wear. Do it!
If you too admire perfect timing, this production is a jewel that will dazzle. These are pro actors —all— who tease us in that sacred space where over-the-top co-mingles with believable. It helps that Graney stages what might be word-heavy scenes with antics like having the characters go for the candy bowl and wrap, unwrap, chomp, spit and swallow candies as if they are percussion accents to the violin voices. For Chicago theater-regulars and devotees of Hell in a Handbag productions, it surprises that no-stranger-to-drag-queen-shtick David Cerda is perhaps one of the most subdued characters on the stage, perhaps because this role comes without stilettos. Don’t read this implying he disappoints—he’s just tuning his instrument differently, and making room for all in the cast to get in on the farcical fun.
The Mousetrap, we learn from the program notes, is the longest running play in London, opened on November 25, 1952, and still going! Barely a week after it opened, a smog settled on London that killed thousands. Who wouldn’t have needed the escape of an entertaining night of theater that Christie’s script provides? Who doesn’t need it now as a chaser to the drone of impeachment hearings we fear are going nowhere?
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves
Title: The Mousetrap
By: Agatha Christie
Directed by: Sean Graney
David Cerda (Mr. Paravicini), Kate Fry (Mollie Ralston), Allen Gilmore (Giles Ralston), Alex Goodrich (Christopher Wren), Erik Hellman (Detective Sergeant Trotter), Tina Muñoz Pandya (Miss Casewell), Lyonel Reneau (Major Metcalf), and Carolyn Ann Hoerdemann (Mrs. Boyle)
Arnel Sancianco (Scenic Design), Alison Siple (Costume Design), Claire Chrzan (Lighting Design), Kevin O’Donnell (Sound Design), Eva Breneman (Dialect Design), Jaq Seifert (Fight Choreography and Intimacy), Derek Matson (Production Dramaturg), and Erin Albretcht (Production Stage Manager)
Thru February 16, 2020
Wed/Thurs/Fri: 7:30 p.m.
Sat/Sun: 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave.