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Theater Reviews

Oct 31, 2000 - Reno Little Theater's "Mousetrap" Overdone But Fun

By Jack Neal

Dame Agatha Christie is the crusty elder stateswoman of mystery and murder books and scripts. What better way to celebrate Halloween than by visiting Dame Agatha's long-running play (about four decades in London), "The Mousetrap."

Reno Little Theater has mounted a respectable if often dreadfully overdone version of Christie's gothic thriller that is, in spite of its haranguing presentation, entertaining enough to recommend. The production opened Friday night (10/23/2000) at Reno's Elk's Club and will play again this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then it's back to the shelf waiting for yet another theater company to make a stab at scaring theatergoers with the play's screwball approach to fright.

For actors, director Kathy Easly must be a dream collaborator. All she does is block so that on-stage traffic doesn't jam up, then turns her cast loose to overact in any fashion they find expressive. Easly's troupe has a field day shreiking and storming about. Getting away with murder isn't just a plot manuever, this formidable collection of hams gets away murder in virtually every scene.

Save Kathleen Smith. She's the play's demure leading lady, Mollie Ralston. It's Smith's hair that does the overacting for her. Mollie's mile-high coiffure is worth the price of admission. Will is stay in place or won't it? Gary Cole Ahnefeld, Jr. is Mollie's husband, Giles and he's solid as English stock should be. Mollie and Giles have just bought a country estate called Monkswell Manor where they have set up business renting rooms to those who want to get away from whatever it is they want to get away from. As it turns out, bed, breakfast, other meals and murder are what Monkswell Manor offers and Mollie and Giles's first crop of patrons are as bizarre as they come.

The gender-confused Christopher Wren (not the real one) is outrageously played by Kevin M. Sak who approaches his every scene like a hallucinating Bette Davis. "What a dump!" a flailing Sak seems always to be saying. The bitchy and old hat Mrs. Boyle, she's contemptuous of everything, is given her due by an appropriately brittle Anne Stewart.

John Coney is a formidable, pipe-sucking Major Metcalf. Kristen Davis-Coelho's trousered and tie-clad Miss Casewell would have been quite comfortable, thank you, in the company of such West Bank types as Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein. Wes Howell is a distinguished looking and acting Mr. Paravicini. A take charge Brian Barney (Detective Sgt. Trotter) brings sanity, at least for awhile, out of confusion with an assured performance that keeps RLT's "Mousetrap" moving adroitly along.

With the exception of the view from Monkswell Manor's central window, Diana Carter's excellent, dark and nicely appointed set fits the play's ambiance like a murder victim's scream. Likewise Miss Carter's costumes are also first-rate. Rick Patton's lighting is shadowy and near perfection. Paul Dancer and Kevin Sak's sound design is old, musty and in all ways suitable.

"The Mousetrap" closes its run with performancers Friday and Saturday (11/3 and 4) at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon (11/5/2000) at 2 p.m. All Reno Little Theater productions can be seen at the Reno Elk's Club, 597 Kumle Lane, Reno. For information call 775-331-1877.

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