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August 23, 2013

Playhouse presenting a Christie mystery

LORETTO — Take seven strangers, strand them inside an English manor during a snowstorm, add one murderer, and what do you get?

The recipe for a classic Agatha Christie murder mystery.

Christie’s “The Mousetrap” will be performed from Thursday through Sept. 7 at Cresson Lake Playhouse, 279 Shapiro Road, Loretto.

“The theme music from ‘Three Blind Mice’ has been included in the show,” said Elaine Mastalski, playhouse executive director. “On the poster, the eyes of the mice are musical notes.”

This whodunit takes place at Monkswell Manor, a once regal estate recently converted into a guest house.

The young owners, Mollie and Giles Ralston, played by Jill Noel Smith of Portage and Joe Hancharick of Johnstown, are more concerned about heavy snowfalls preventing their first guests’ arrival than radio reports from London about a murder.

After the guests arrive safely and the manor becomes snowed in, Sgt. Trotter, a policeman on skis played by Sam Wagner of Cresson, arrives suspecting that one of the seven occupants may be the killer. After a second murder occurs at the manor, Trotter is sure of it.

Suspects include the Ralstons themselves; Miss Casewell, a spinster with a curious background, played by Michele Grove of Hollidaysburg; Christopher Wren, an architect who seems better equipped to be a chef, played by Jonathan O’Harrow of Altoona; Mrs. Boyle, another guest who seems uptight, played by Valerie Stratton of Altoona; Maj. Metcalf, a retired army officer played by Tom Lizska of Altoona; and Paravicini, an unexpected visitor played by Rich Volpe of Altoona, who claims his car has run into a snowdrift.

During his interrogation, Trotter uncovers many secrets as he tries to solve the murder in true Christie style.

“We have such a stellar cast,” Mastalski said.

“I watched some of the show the other night, and they were getting into their roles. I know I’ll be cracking up.”

The play also is known for its twist ending, which audiences are traditionally asked not to reveal after leaving the theater. Mastalski said the same rule will apply for Cresson Lake’s audiences.

“I like it because it has a twist,” she added.

The murder mystery is being directed by  Rachel Wagner of Cresson.

For more than 50 years, “The Mousetrap” has been the world’s longest running stage production. It opened in the West End of London in 1952.  

Ruth Rice covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at RuthRice@RuthRiceTD.

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