Agatha Christie’s riveting classic murder mystery, “The Mousetrap,” opens its nine-show run this weekend with 7 p.m. performances Friday and Saturday, and a 2 p.m. show Sunday at the Golden Chain Theatre.
The murder mystery, with its twists and turns, and characters with great dialogue, is the longest continuously-running show of all time, with more than 25,000 performances, takes place in a boarding house where a group of strangers have been stranded by a snow storm.
The Golden Chain production is co-directed by Peter Clarke and MaryHelen Mierkey.
““The Mousetrap” is an atmospheric whodunit that is an Agatha Christie classic,” Clarke said. “To survive this long, there has to be something special about the play beyond just the momentum of surviving. Yes, it has a twist ending … but then so do many less successful plays.”
Clarke feels what separates “The Mousetrap” from the competition is the characters - a combination of eight unique individuals.
“One of them may be a killer ... and in addition, the play is made distinct by Christie’s complicated orchestration of the movement of characters on the stage – a constant flow of individual and group entrances and exits through any of the five doorways of the dark and gloomy set with shabby furniture. The lights are dim. No one can leave. In this pressure cooker characters shift and change and reveal hidden things about themselves - that is what makes this play so compelling.”
Clarke feels blessed to have such a diverse cast anchored by Jessalyn Talley, 17, in the lead role of young Mrs. Mollie Ralston, the proprietor of Monkswell Manor.
“I love murder mysteries, and I like that my character Mollie is so complex and interesting,” Talley said.
“Jessalyn has been in multiple productions including an especially strong comedic performance in GCT’s Tin Pan Alley two years ago,” Clarke said.
Playing the frustrated Detective Sergeant Trotter, the second lead in the show, is Keith Treadaway in his first leading role after excellent supporting parts in “The Miracle Worker,” and “Jack the Ripper.”
“As Trotter I get to act really angry, and yell at people, and they have to listen to me,” Treadaway said. “It’s kind of empowering.”
Treadaway is quick to acknowledge that Christie is one of the great playwrights of all time.
“I’ve done work where I swallowed my pride and said some really badly written lines the best I could ... not so with Agatha Christie, every word I say on stage is worthwhile. I can say I am delighted by every persona that enters that stage. Every single person could be a murderer, and every single one could be a good friend. We will scare you ... just a little.”
Jessalyn Talley is joined on stage by her father Gary Talley, also a GCT veteran, who plays the calm, and collected Major Metcalf, which is a shift for him, usually playing more comic roles.
“I found this part very difficult because I am not this type of person in real life,” Talley said. “Metcalf is not a type of character that I have played in the past. I usually have parts that match more of my personality.”
Talley said that being in this Agatha Christie play is a great experience.
“Her attention to the characters is wonderful ... she spends time weaving the mystery through the building of the characters,” Talley explained. “By the time the play is done you feel you know each character and each character has the possibility of being the killer, the next victim, or simply an innocent bystander.”
Talley said possibly the greatest part about the play is that he gets to share the stage again with his daughter Jessalyn.
“I have always loved the theater, but it takes a lot of time away from home, but with Jessalyn in this play I get to be with her almost every night of the week,” Talley said. “The Golden Chain is such a great place for that to happen - It has a great family atmosphere.”
Mollie’s level-headed husband and partner in the Monkswell Manor Guest House is Robert Britt, a young actor who, just off a strong performance as Skeets in GCT’s Bertha the Beautiful Typewriter Girl, is also cast as one of leads in the upcoming production of Fiddler on the Roof.
Clarke said Roland Ott presents a great take on the role of the Italian, Paravicini, and Miss Casewell, the boarder from the continent brings strong newcomer Jennifer Olsen to the stage.
“Jennifer is a veteran of high school dramas who got the itch to make a strong return to the stage after an absence of many years,” Clarke said. “And my co-director, MaryHelen Mierkey, brings years of experience to the role of Mrs. Boyle, the snobby boarder who has moved into the newly- opened manor for a life change.”
Rounding out the cast is Eddie Fickling who decided out of the blue recently that he wanted to be an actor.
“Eddie walked into the audition room for “The Mousetrap,” where he was immediately snatched up to play the wacky and eccentric, young Christopher Wren,” Clarke said. “Eddie is indeed wacky and eccentric in his interpretation.”
“This cast is ready and eager to present this play to an audience,” Clarke said. “The play is known for its twist ending. It is also known for admonishing everyone to not give the ending away. Come see the show and keep the secret.”
Details: Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. (Oct. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, and 17), 2 p.m. shows Sundays (Oct. 4, 11, and 18). Tickets: general admission ($15), seniors ($12), students and active military ($10). Group rates available. (559) 683-7112, Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. - goldenchaintheatre.org.