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When men become mice

BY CATHERINE KRUSE | Evergreen theater reporter

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Three blind mice, three blind mice, turn out the lights, and one dies.

Though creepy, it’s exactly the kind of feeling one might take away from “The Mousetrap,” a play written by godmother of murder mysteries, Agatha Christie. The murder mystery show will be performed at the Pullman Civic Theatre starting this weekend.

“When you look her up, she’s an icon for murder mysteries,” said “The Mousetrap” Director Jeri Harris. “This is the only play she wrote.”

Set in England, the story tells of a young married couple, Mollie and Giles Ralston, who open up a hotel called Monkswell Manor. A winter storm traps them and their guests in the hotel, where a murder suddenly takes place.

Their guests and eventually the suspects for the evening are described as an older woman magistrate, a mysterious young woman, a retired army major, and a young architect who’s a little on the neurotic side.

“The audience is requested not to divulge who the murderer is,” said Brandon Dudley, who plays the architect Christopher Wren. “We’re all sworn to secrecy. It’s been that way ever since the play first aired.”

Along with the tradition of secrecy is the fact that Agatha Christie was well known for her twists, known as red herrings, in murder mysteries. One minute the audience thinks they know how the story will go and suddenly it changes.

Harris said she chose to do this show because she likes classics. “The Mousetrap” is the longest continuously running show in theatre history, playing since 1952 but not done in Pullman for a while.

“It’s fun to escape to an older time and to have themes of murder without worrying about having nightmares,” said Lindsay Weldon, who plays Mollie Ralston.

Harris said there wasn’t much research to be done in preparation for the show. The costumes are simple enough, with the women in dresses and men wearing suits. Though tricky to obtain, Pullman Civic Theatre got resources from its collection and access to WSU costumes.

“My favorite part doesn’t happen in the show,” she said. “(It’s) working with the people.”

Character developments varied from actor to actor. For Dudley, the process of becoming Christopher Wren wasn’t difficult because the character was similar to himself. Like Wren, Dudley said he tends to laugh at weird moments when nervous and doesn’t think himself as crazy even when some might think otherwise.

Dudley said he also speculates on Wren’s sexuality. Through his mannerisms, one would think he is a gay man, which was not an appropriate mindset in 1950s England.

“I decided to do this show because the last production I was in was very dramatic and deep and dark,” he said. “Mousetrap seems more lighthearted.”

Weldon also found similarities between herself and her character Mollie Ralston. She said her favorite part was the screaming Ralston does; a loud, horrified scream that’s bound to make eardrums burst.

“I didn’t think I could scream so well,” she said. “In theater you’d have classes to speak from the diaphragm (so it won’t) hurt to scream. It’s a guttural place that it comes from.”

“The Mousetrap” is a story that features quick friendships, much hostility, a whodunit feel, and a sinister twist on a classic children’s rhyme.

“Everyone has a secret and you have to see whose will come out and under what circumstances,” Weldon said.

“The Mousetrap” will show at Pullman Civic Theatre Oct. 10-12 and 16-19 at 7:30 p.m. except for Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets for evening shows are $12 if bought in advance and $15 at the door. For matinees, tickets are $10 bought in advance and $12 at the door.

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When men become mice