BAR HARBOR — Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” the second of the two Mount Desert Island High School spring plays this year, is a murder mystery classic. The play premiered in London’s West End in 1952 and has been running there ever since. That makes it the longest continuously running theatrical production of the modern era.
“It’s fun to give the kids exposure to all the different genres,” director Chris Dougherty said. “We’ve done farces and satire and serious drama, but it has been a long time since we’d done a Christie. So we’ve been holding this one on the back burner. It’s a work that’s part of the canon. It’s fun for the audiences, too, because it’s familiar. Everybody loves a good mystery. The Christie play is always the thing that sells out at Acadia Repertory Theatre every summer.”
Mr. and Mrs. Ralston, played by Griffin Graves and Molly E. Brown, are the proprietors of the Monkswell Manor guesthouse. Their guests are Christopher Wren (Desmond Reifsnyder), Mrs. Boyle (Thistle Swann), Major Metcalf (Pierce Vincenty), Miss Casewell (Ellie Jacoby) and Mr. Paravicini (Tarzan Munson). Detective Sergeant Trotter (Caleb Graham) arrives in a snow storm to question the proprietors and guests about the murder.
“Christie gives people the opportunity to play these characters who are mysterious. They may be normal, or they may have secrets,” Dougherty said. “And in this case, they’re English, so they all have accents. It gives them a lot to play with.”
Timing is everything here, she said. “You have to keep up the dramatic tension, but you can’t be boring either. There’s a lot of exposition, which can be deadly in the wrong hands. That in itself is an art that’s good for the students to practice. You have to be on your toes to react to what’s going on around you. A lot of this play is about how the characters react to the conversations around them. We also have to build the suspense in the story, because otherwise, what’s the point?”
The identity of the murderer is revealed near the end of the play. Audiences are traditionally asked not to share “spoilers” with those who haven’t seen the play yet.
“It has a twist ending, which contemporary audiences might be less surprised by than the original audiences were,” Dougherty said. “Now, after seeing Hitchcock movies or others like “The Sixth Sense,” we’re a little less gullible. But that’s something we play with.”
Performances are set for Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors and will be available at the door for each performance.