By Debbie Hale
The Chattanooga Theatre Centre's MainStage continues to entertain in this, its 88th season, with the production of Agatha Christie's classic murder mystery, "The Mousetrap." Originally written for Queen Mary, it opened in London in 1952, and holds the record as the longest running performance in theatrical history.
Producing director George Quick opens the Great Hall at Monkswell Manor and quickly jumps right into the interactions of this diverse cast of eight unique characters.
Lauren M. Johnson is especially strong in her CTC debut performance in the role of Mollie Ralston. As the proprietor of the English manor and wife of Giles Ralston, Johnson delivers a Mollie that Ms. Christie herself might be proud.
Tim Newland portrays Giles Ralston. As partner both in life and business, Newland's Giles creates the perfect balance between trustful innocence and doubtful suspicion in this delicate matrimonial relationship.
Four invited guests accentuate the intrigue with a variety of odd and unpleasant characteristics. The first guest to arrive is Christopher Wren with Justin Bridges capturing the flamboyant architectural student's "energy" in his CTC debut. This likeable comedic character strongly contrasts to the critical Mrs. Boyle, brilliantly delivered by Julie J. Van Valkenburg. Van Valkenburg is an audience favorite with her uninhibited creation of this "negative know-it-all."
Greg Rambin makes his first appearance on the CTC stage as guest number three, Major Metcalf. Rambin gives a solid performance in bringing the most normalcy to his mysterious army retiree character.
The fourth guest is "masculine" Miss Casewell. Lizzie Chazen's Casewell is perfectly created with her every movement. Her facial expressions enhance the aloofness of her character.
Jerry M. Draper is the unexpected guest, Mr. Paravicini and Draper "nails" the role as this person in obvious disguise. His comedic relief is great with wonderful timing.
Rounding up this cast of eight is Will Park. As Detective Sergeant Trotter, Park creates reasonable doubt for all on stage.
Setting in 1952, costumes are period appropriate and beautifully colorful with designer Scott Dunlap's expert touch. Dunlap, Warren Brady, and Director Quick design the Manor house set in a fashion that promotes the spooky feeling a good murder mystery must possess.
From the authenticity of the staging to the creepiness of the simple tune "Three Blind Mice," the CTC MainStage continues the tradition at the conclusion of the play by asking audience members not to reveal the identity of the killer to anyone outside the theatre.
It is worth a trip to the CTC to witness the revelation for yourself.