Ever consider how fascinated we are with murder? It saturates popular culture. You can flip through the channels at any given moment in a 24-hour cycle, and likely, you’ll find a “CSI” marathon or a “Criminal Minds” rerun somewhere in the dark recesses of basic cable. It’s been hot as hell lately, and if you feel like a slob watching crime dramas all summer on the couch, blasting the air conditioning, why not get out and see a murder mystery in an air conditioned theater? Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap at 2nd Story Theater just might satiate your unquenchable bloodlust, you sicko.
They’re snowed in. Every guest at Monkswell Manor is stuck, and with news of a shadowy madman on the loose, things get tense. An anonymous murderer has crawled out of the past to rectify a tragedy, and there’s a body count. One victim dead, two yet left. Whoever the next victims are, they’re trapped at Monskwell Manor (oh, mousetrap, I get it).The proprietors, the young Ralston couple, cope as best they can with the eclectic array of characters lodging at their inn as hysteria prevails.
The Mousetrap is the prototype murder mystery from which every whodunit spoof stems. As such, you get a now-cliché assortment of weirdos who just happen to be the most suspicious people in existence. The foreign creep, the snobby dame, the eccentric runaway, the old military stiff. Oh, and the obligatory inspector from Scotland Yard. Christie incorporates ample misdirection and tops off the show with a legendary twist.
The Mousetrap is actually the longest continuously running show in theater history, celebrating a 25,000 performance milestone just last November. It’s an older show, still shaking off the Victorian cobwebs. At times, the dialogue is almost reminiscent of Wilde; witty banter and clever hub-bub. I’m not sure if that’s just a quality of being British or a conscious attempt to emulate Oscar Wilde. It just sounds unnaturally proper to an American ear. But even 50 years after it opened on the West End, this show holds up for a modern audience. If your theatrical odometer is clicking 25,000, you’re clearly doing something right.
So, Mousetrap is a classic murder mystery that has garnered theatrical accolades for its longevity. Cool. But that’s not all that makes 2nd Story’s production worthwhile.
The Mousetrap is being paired in rep with The Murder Room, a farce that mocks the murder mystery genre, and indeed much of Mousetrap . The plays, both directed by Ed Shea, will run on alternating weekends through Labor Day. These shows lend to one another tremendously; audiences will appreciate one all the more for having seen the other. Also, air conditioning.
The Mousetrap and The Murder Room run until September 1. DVR the new episode of “Dexter,” ignore your urge to binge-watch an entire season of “Law & Order.” Check out 2nd Story’s Murder in Rep instead. It’s Murderiffic.