In a McPherson College theatre season that has placed classic and popular shows in unusual settings, one show stands out from the rest… because it’s so traditional.
Eric Johnson, a 1989 MC graduate and guest director for “The Mousetrap,” said the college production’s set closely mirrors the one that has been used in the West End of London for 63 years – making this Agatha Christie mystery the world’s longest-running play of any kind.
The McPherson College production will have a substantially shorter run – 7:30 pm., March 4 and 5 in Brown Auditorium.
This theatre season has Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” set in a pirate cove, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” placed on a giant art drafting table, the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare fable in “The Great Cross Country Race” receiving a steampunk treatment, and “Hotel Paradiso” moving from France to New Orleans.
Against that backdrop, well, the longest-running play using a classic set design actually proves a contrast. Johnson said the show selection was all part of trying to give those in performing arts at MC the most diverse experience possible.
“You want to expose your students to as much as you can,” he said. “Settings, genres, styles.”
Johnson said that audiences should come to “The Mousetrap” because there’s no place else to see the murder mystery other than within the walls of a theatre. Because of a quirk in how Christie licensed this play, officially licensed movies couldn’t be produced until the original live production closed. Because the first production hasn’t closed in 63 years, well…
“This one, if you want to see it, you’ve got to see it on the stage,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that Christie is the bestselling novelist in history, with more than a billion copies sold in English and another billion in 100 foreign languages. As a playwright, she’s only been outsold by William Shakespeare. For the printed word generally, only the Christian Bible has outpaced Christie and Shakespeare. Johnson said after reading Christie, it’s no mystery why that is.
“I think people enjoy trying to figure out the whodunit,” he said. “What she does so well is presenting a strong case for how each character could have done it. If it’s done well, the audience is actively involved getting to the bottom of it before the author lets us know.”
But don’t expect solving the mystery to be easy. Even Eric Johnson couldn’t do it on his first read.
“She had me all the way to the end,” he said.
“The Mousetrap” is showing at 7:30 p.m. March 4 and 5. Tickets cost $5 for adults and $3.50 for children ages high school and younger as well as seniors. Reservations may be made by contacting the theatre box office at 620-242-0444 or at email@example.com.
Cast is: Whitney Murray, sophomore, Kansas City, Kan. (Voice on Radio); Deiah Curtis, sophomore, Great Bend, Kan. (Mollie Ralston); James Covel, senior, Wichita, Kan. (Giles Ralston); Chris Rakowski, junior, Joppa, Md. (Christopher Wren); Ashley Burch, freshman, Pittsburg, Kan. (Mrs. Boyle); Austin Crosby, sophomore, McPherson, Kan. (Major Metcalf); Aubrey Hollinger, sophomore, Lyons, Kan. (Miss Casewell); Josh Hall, senior, Tonganoxie, Kan. (Mr. Paravicini); and Logan Schrag, sophomore, McPherson, Kan. (Detective Sergeant Trotter).
Crew is: Eric Johnson ’89, McPherson, Kan. (director); Crystal Osner, senior, Conway Springs, Kan. (stage manager); Whitney Jefferson, senior, Houston, Texas (assistant stage Manager); Dr. Rick Tyler ’74, professor of speech and theatre (technical director); Osner, Callie Atkins, junior, Stillwater, Okla.; Burch; Nora Grosbach, sophomore, Evergreen, Colo.; Hollinger (costumes); Crosby, Lucas Jez, freshman, Westfield, Mass.; Mason Polston, freshman, Emporia, Kan.; Phil Reinhardt, freshman, Tenants Harbor, Maine; Karl Timmerman, junior, Tulsa, Okla.; and Stagecraft class (set construction); Murray (props); Lora Kirmer, senior, Holly, Colo. (lights); Marissa Patton, senior, Tribune, Kan. (sound); and Abby Trenkle, senior, Haysville, Kan. (box office)