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Theatre Group’s ‘Mousetrap’ charms and intrigues

March 23, 2012

From the print edition

The killer was among them, but who could it be? The old spinster, the flamboyant young chap, the mysterious foreigner, or another one of the eight guests who found themselves trapped at Monkswell Manor Guesthouse on a blizzardy night in England? The only more pressing question: how long would it be until the next victim was claimed? To see the mystery unravel you will have to attend for yourself as the Little Theatre Group, one of the few English-language drama groups around, puts on the famous Agatha Christie mystery, “The Mousetrap,” in downtown San José.

The group opened its doors for a 62nd year of dramatic entertainment with this simple, yet suspenseful production. The one-set play, driven by the depth and richness of its characters, is a perfect fit for the small theatre organization that features a range of talent from international, stage-tempered experts to young, bilingual phenoms. Case in point, play director Ann Antkiw has nearly as many years acting and directing with the expat theater group as Luis Baltodano – a Tico who plays Sergeant Trotter in his first-ever stage performance – is old.

In fact, each of the personalities Christie envisioned for the characters in her play is equally matched by one of the volunteer cast members of the Little Theatre Group, brought together from different walks of Costa Rican life with the common love of play-acting. For example, actor Joseph Loveday, a teacher at The British School of Costa Rica, perfected an Italian accent for his character, the inappropriate Mr. Paravicini, who imitates his mother´s Maltese accent as a young boy. Also present in the cast is an employee of the U.S. State Department, a Scottish university student studying abroad and an English woman who recently moved to the country form Bermuda. 

The play’s first showing, March 16, was highly entertaining, with well-delivered scenes of suspense and intrigue, broken up by occasional moments of comedy. Even the opening-night errors – such as the lights coming on too soon while the murder victim was still scurrying off stage on all fours – made the overall production more endearing than anything else. Admirably, the group pulled together an impressive set with stunning costumes. (Although, it was hard to ignore that the gun wielded by the murderer strongly resembled a semi-automatic Glock rather than a 1950s-era firearm.)

The ambience was all you’d expect from a charming little play set in the intimate Laurence Olivier Theatre. And the organic feeling of the low-budget, small-stage production made it more entertaining than watching a buttoned-up show from the nose-bleed section of a colossal theater. The small venue, which attracted 45 on opening night, places the front-row audience members literally on the set, bridging the barrier between actor and spectator. The theater is also set above the Shakespeare bar, where audience members can go for a pre- or post-act Pilsen or glass of wine. 

“The Mousetrap” is the modern world’s longest continuously running production. Since it was first performed in West End of London in 1952, it has never failed to be on stage. The Little Theatre Group chose the play in celebration of the show’s 60th anniversary, after having acted it previously in 1992. “The Mousetrap” is one of several performances the group will produce this year. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. The production will run until April 1.

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