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The longest running play brings its cat-and-mouse game to the Civic Center



guineas during economic hard times in post-World War II England, which "puts them in the shady area of upper-middle class trade, crossing social lines and creating some uncertainty as to who outranks whom," OCTC dramaturge Anna Holloway writes in a program note.

The Ralstons are novice guesthouse proprietors. Five shady guests, all of whom possess suspicion-arousing idiosyncrasies, check into Monkswell Manor during a snowstorm, just as news arrives via the Ralstons' upright console radio that a murderer is on the loose.

Detective Sgt. Trotter (Connor Konz) skis in to investigate, and away we go.

"The Mousetrap" is not a foolproof play; it can be messed up by inferior acting and leaden direction. But the OCTC production, while still looking like a theater on a budget on a set design by Paul Huebner with costumes by Brenda Nelson, benefits from fine acting and Rachel Irick's straightforward, unembellished direction.

The mostly youthful cast is thankfully led by two adults, the wonderful Angie Duke "? underutilized as Mrs. Boyle, a crank in a mink jacket and hat "? and the solidly reliable Lance Reese, as Mr. Paravicini. One hopes the college students in the cast carefully observed them.

Duke is an actor who pays meticulous attention to detail and enlivens the stage whenever she's on it, even when playing a "¦ well, let's not give away too much of the plot. Reese, a longtime Pollard Theatre company member, hits the mark as Paravicini, a character of indeterminate origin and motives.

Notable performances are given by Jerrad Allbritton, doing some of his best work yet as Major Metcalf, and Holly McNatt, who is fine as the soft-butch Miss Casewell. Kyle Whalen nails it as the flighty Christopher Wren, an architect. No, not that Christopher Wren. This Wren's parents baptized him Christopher, hoping he would become an architect.

Solid acting holds the audience's attention in this staging of "Mousetrap," which has been playing continuously in London's West End ever since, although the reviewed performance seemed tentative at times and did not click like a well-oiled machine, as it should. The timing and seamlessness that this play requires is akin to farce.

Undoubtedly, however, the play, taken for the light entertainment that it is, still stands up to critical scrutiny after all these years. "?Larry Laneer


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