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Plum Alley Theater in Elizabethtown offers mystery, intrigue and murder this weekend as Hardin County Playhouse presents Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.”
Director Bo Cecil said “The Mousetrap” is the longest running play in history. There is no film version of the play so the ending is kept a secret. Traditionally, the audience is asked to keep the ending a secret when they leave the theater, he said.
The play includes a cast of eight: the military man, the detective, the crabby older lady, the innocent ingénue, the unusual foreigner, the eccentric young man, the stoic husband and the mysterious woman, Cecil said.
There are many reasons audiences keep returning to the theater for Christie’s mystery masterpiece.
“Creating a whodunit requires very careful crafting and Christie’s stories have proved enduring for many reasons, but perhaps most of all for the characters,” Cecil said.
Christie creates vivid characters with intriguing back stories that are not always important to the plot, he said.
“The real trick is to keep the audience guessing up to the climax or reveal,” he said.
Jeremiah Shilling plays Christopher Wren, an eccentric architect and the first to arrive at the house, where the play is set.
Shilling said mysteries give an actor the opportunity to play characters who are “bigger than life.”
“It’s also fun to get to play the rising tension that comes from the nature of them and trying to figure out who the killer is, or hiding the fact that it’s you, before you become the next victim,” he said.
Part of the popularity of the show comes from Christie’s mandate that no movie can be made of the play while it’s still running on stage in London, keeping the ending a secret, he said.
“So the only way to really experience it is to see it on stage,” he said.
The writing, he said, is funny with a great twist ending.
During the first read through of the play, the cast guessed who they thought was the killer. Of the few who didn’t already know the ending, only one got it right, he said.
Elizabeth Arroyo-Fiske plays Miss Casewell in the play and has read all of Christie’s books.
“Who doesn’t like a good mystery?” she said.
As an active duty soldier stationed at Fort Knox, she is using this as an opportunity to become a part of the local community.
There are many things that draw people to the play, she said, including a well-written story.
“There is just something about seeing the characters you have read about come to life. The wonder of how you have imagined each character and whether the actors portraying each character hit the mark,” she said.
While some may be tempted to find the ending online, Cecil said that takes the fun out of it.
“That would be like buying a book and flipping immediately to the back page,” he said. “The fun is in the guessing, the suspense and the mystery.”
Part of the fun, he said, is being a sleuth in the audience and trying to figure out what is going on before the characters find out.
“Our world is far more jaded today than when the play premiered and secrets are harder to keep, but we would do well to allow ourselves the joyful surprises of a little mystery,” he said.
Shilling said even if audiences know the ending, it wouldn’t ruin it because the play is entertaining and worth seeing.
“The play has a great twist, but that twist isn’t the whole play,” he said. “There’s a reason this show has endured for more than 60 years and it’s more than just a great ending.”
The intimate setting of the Plum Alley Theater helps the mystery along, Arroyo-Fiske said.
“With the cast being so close to the audience, you get the feeling you are part of the story,” she said.
It makes the danger seem more dangerous, Cecil said.
The audience becomes the ninth member of the cast in “The Mousetrap,” Shilling said. They are looking for clues like the cast and being close to the action helps, he said.
The audience gets caught up in the mystery of the show, gasping as it is revealed, Cecil said.
“You often find audience members whisper to each other with suspicions,” he said. “And intermission becomes a hotbed of theories and observations.”
Few guess the killer correctly, but Cecil said it’s fun watching the story unfold. Audiences have to ask themselves if they would be able to figure it out before the killer came for them, he said.
Becca Owsley can be reached at 270- 505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
The Hardin County Playhouse presents “The Mousetrap” at 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, 7 p.m. Oct. 24-26 and 3 p.m. Oct. 27.
Tickets are $18 for general admission and $15 for seniors, students, Military and groups of 10 or more.
For tickets or more information, call 270-351-0577.