The Community Players of Concord are bringing Agatha Christie’s well-known murder mystery The Mousetrap to the Concord City Auditorium stage Friday, May 4, through Sunday, May 6. One thing you must know before you see it: Don’t spoil the ending.
The Mousetrap, which first opened in London in 1952, is the longest-running show in theater history, with more than 24,000 performances of the production having been presented to audiences since then. At the end of every show, for the benefit of future attendees, audiences are asked not to share the play’s twist ending.
“You’ll never guess what the ending is if you don’t know it,” said Doug Schwarz, who plays a detective in Concord’s production of the show and is in charge of its publicity. “There are all sorts of special provisions that Agatha Christie made. The play can’t be made as a movie until the production stops running in England, and there can only be one production [of it] in the U.S. and one in England at a given time — to preserve the mystery.”
The Concord production will be directed by George Kelly. The play is set in the Great Hall at Monkswell Manor on a snowy, stormy London night. Assorted guests have arrived to spend the night at the manor, and new proprietors Giles and Mollie Ralston welcome them in. Guests include Mrs. Boyle, a finicky, elderly woman played by New Hampshire theater veteran Barbara Webb; the standoffish Miss Casewell, played by Concord’s Ellen Burger; the mysterious Mr. Paravacini, played by Ray Dudley; and more.
The quirky guests soon learn of a murder in London, and detective Sgt. Trotter, played by Schwarz, comes knocking to inform the group that the police believe the murderer is at the manor and will kill again. Trotter begins his questioning.
“They are all trapped, and the roads are all closed,” Schwarz said. “So now of course they all know that one of them may be the killer and one of them is presumably the [second] person the killer plans to kill. Everybody suspects everyone.”
Schwarz, who has been acting with the Community Players since 1992, says the company has been around for the past 80 years. Rehearsals were held in church basements, warehouses, “anywhere we could find space,” Schwarz said, before the Community Players built rehearsal space in Concord two decades ago.
He says the ensemble cast is a mix of actors and actresses old and new to the Community Players.
“We’ve had a lot of fun playing off of each other,” Schwarz said. “I really enjoy the interactions between the characters. Everybody is very different. Agatha Christie was very good at drawing very distinct, well-defined characters and having them bounce off and interact with each other.
“But what I really love is how completely unexpected the ending is going to be,” he added. “I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who are Agatha Christie fans, but it’s great theater even if you’re not a fan [of her] or a mystery fan.”