Balancing suspense, hilarity provide challenge for 'The Mousetrap' director


February 16, 2016

Murder, misperception and mirth come to Monkswell Manor as SUNY Oswego’s student honors production of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” takes the Hewitt ballroom stage in March.

For a “Clue” to the approach of director Ana Richardson in staging the classic whodunit, “The Mousetrap” will preview at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 3, and run at 7:30 p.m. March 4, 5, 11 and 12, with a 2 p.m. finale on Sunday, March 13.

The popular board game Clue provides a metaphor for Richardson’s concept of what has been called the world’s longest running play, staged in London continuously for more than 25,000 performances since 1952.

“Reality vs. fantasy. Appearance vs. authenticity. Who do you trust? We all have masks that we wear, and each character in ‘The Mousetrap’ has a façade to develop,” Richardson said.

Eight people come together at Monkswell Manor guest house, when Mrs. Boyle (Kelci Schlierf) dies at the hands of another, identity unknown. As the suspense builds, Detective Sgt. Trotter (Josh Jarvi) presses on with his investigation among the range of quirky—at times hilarious—characters: the flighty Christopher Wren (Brian Bueche), retired Major Metcalf (Evan Debevec-McKenney), innkeepers Mollie and Giles Ralston (Megan Twamley and Peter Kunz), the strange Miss Casewell (Taylor McCown) and the mysterious Paravicini (Libbie Wansink).

‘Big shoes to fill’

Richardson, a dual major in theater and in broadcasting, said she feels a special responsibility to the memory of the legendary playwright, short story writer and crime novelist, who died in 1976 at 85, but whose works continue to play and to sell.

“I’m trying to honor Agatha Christie in the best way that I can without giving away the ending,” the director said.  “I’m trying to coordinate her vision with my vision for the show. Her intention was not to be really frightening or horrible, and also to not create totally a farce.”

Working closely with the crew—for example, student sound designer Rachael Kepler—as well as the cast and the time-honored script, Richardson tries to balance suspense with comedy. As a director among peers, she does some coaching but also tries to give the actors some leeway.

“As an actor (‘Arcadia,’ ‘Young Frankenstein’ and ‘The Bacchae’), I always admire a director who lets me play, who lets me explore,” Richardson said. “I want them to explore with their roles, as well.”

With weeks of research and rehearsals behind her, the director looks forward to presenting “The Mousetrap” to audiences.

“It’s certainly big shoes to fill,” she said. “It’s wonderful. I have really enjoyed working on this piece. Yes, it’s challenging because it’s really well known, so we do have to maintain the integrity of the script. But I’m working hard to make it my own.”

Tickets for “The Mousetrap” are $15 ($7 for SUNY Oswego students) and are available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at or by calling 315-312-2141. All tickets for the preview are $5.

Parking is included in the price of a ticket and is available in the employee lot in front of Culkin Hall and in the rear half of the employee/commuter lot behind Hart and Funnelle residence halls. Patrons with disabilities needing assistance should call 315-312-2141 in advance of a performance.

PHOTO CAPTION: Murder most foul—In the SUNY Oswego student honors production of “The Mousetrap” by renowned mystery writer Agatha Christie, Kelci Schlierf (at far right rear) plays the “nearly departed” sourpuss Mrs. Boyle as suspects in her murder surround her. In front from left are Detective Sgt. Trotter (Josh Jarvi), innkeepers Molly (Megan Twamley) and Giles Ralston (Peter Kunz) and (from left rear) Miss Casewell (Taylor McCown), Christopher Wren (Brian Bueche), Major Metcalf (Evan Debevec-McKenney) and Paravicini (Libbie Wansink). Under the direction of Ana Richardson, the play will preview on March 3 and run March 4 to 5 and 11 to 13 in Hewitt ballroom.