Baited With Laughs “THE MOUSETRAP” at Theatre Jacksonville

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Theatre Jacksonville, McCall Pest Control, and Bell Laboratories are presenting the annual Classic in San Marco. This year’s production is the classic of all classics, Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” which opened on September 18, 2015 and will be on stage in San Marco through October 4.

The Mousetrap, which opened in 1952 when Winston Churchill was the British Prime Minister and Harry Truman was our President, holds the record as the longest running play in theatre history. It opened in London at the Ambassadors Theatre, where it remained for 22 years, before moving to the St. Martin’s Theatre next door. It is now in its 63rd year, with over 26,000 performances. But why, you ask, is it still running? Partly because it is titillating in that you have to guess who done it, and who will be the next to be done to, and partly also because the characterizations are open-ended and can be played a number of ways. The dialogue has a smart brittle quality.

The action all takes place at Monkswell Manor, which has recently been converted to a guest house by the newly married Ralstons, who are now accepting their first lodgers. Mollie is played by Miles Laura Para, who has done two shows at TJ, appearing in “As You Like It” and “Is He Dead?” Most recently, she was in “One Man, Two Guvnors,” a comedy at ABET. Her husband Giles is played by Rich Pintello, who was Hank in last season’s “Love Goes to Press.”

The guests begin arriving. Clauda Cecile Laster (Mrs. Boyle) is making her community theatre debut as a very fussy, always complaining retired woman, who is not happy about anything, and is particularly critical of the Mollie and Giles because of their lack of experience as inn keepers.

12028787_10153110914665205_6535655916472291722_oMyles Hughes (Christopher Wren) is a rather oddball young man with a wild hair cut, and he is also the funniest of the inn’s patrons. Mr. Hughes was in last season’s “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play” at Players by the Sea.

Laura Meier (Miss Carswell) is a restrained and mysterious woman, who is apparently hiding something. Ms. Meier was recently in TJ’s “The Miracle Worker” as Annie Sullivan, a role for which she was nominated as Best Actress.

David Bilbray (Mr. Paravicini) is another strange guest who says he came to the guesthouse only because his car broke down in the middle of the snowstorm outside. Ah, but he speaks with a strange accent and his country of origin is unclear. Mr. Bilbray is new to local theatre but has a number of comedies on his resume.

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James Belich (Detective Sergeant Trotter) was last seen in the leading role in TJ’s “Love Goes to Press.” Now a resident of Jacksonville, he is from St. Paul, Minnesota and performed a number of leading roles in that area. As the inquiring detective chasing a murderer, he has the most demanding role, as he constantly is on the move questioning all the guests.

Brad Trowbridge (Major Metcalf) was picture perfect in this role. Brad has retired and is making acting his full time avocation. Luckily for us as audience members, he is one of the funniest actors ever on stage (although not in this show). Here is a little secret about Brad we will share with you: thirty-three years ago, he appeared in a murder mystery called “The Mousetrap” in the role of Sergeant Trotter.

Well, this is a murder mystery, and that is all we can say about the characters and plot. There will be no spoilers here, but you will have fun trying to guess the identity and motive of the murderer. Agatha Christie was always upset by reviews that revealed the plots of her stories, so we will respect her wishes, as we don’t want visits from her ghost.

  
JaMario Stills did a fine bit of directing and guiding his actors in their characterizations. Mr. Stills is a graduate of Douglas Anderson who received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree as a graduate of The Juilliard School. He has an impressive resume which includes both directing and performing at such venues as Lincoln Center, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, and The Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Scenic Designer David Dawson’s conception of Monkswell Manor takes us back to England in the forties. No television sets here, no cell phones, only an old-fashioned radio (from the collection of Sean Olin). The set is just about perfect except for one thing; there was no snow. Even when Sergeant Trotter knocks on a large window to announce his arrival on snow skis, we don’t see snow in the background or on his clothing. Since the characters in the manor are snowbound and feel trapped, some representative wind and flakes would have intensified the concerns of audience members.

The Technical Production Team included: JaMario Stills (Director, Sound Design), Asha Printup (Stage Manager), David Dawson (Technical Director, Scenic & Lighting Design, Properties), Garth Kennedy (Assistant Technical Director), Kimberly Burns (Costumes)  Mark Rubens (Light Board Operator) Audie Gibson (Sound Board Operator), and Amy Leone and Spencer Carr (Run Crew)

Don’t miss the opportunity to have a London experience right here in Jacksonville at greatly reduced prices! In London the current ticket price for “The Mousetrap” is equivalent to $60.00 in US currency. Theatre Jacksonville is located at 2032 San Marco, Jacksonville Florida. For reservations call 396-4425 or visit theatrejax.com.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.