ZHS gets on the case with presentation of “The Mousetrap”

Detective Trotter (Chet Peterson, left) discusses the murders while Mollie (Laenea Halter), Giles (James Kosilla) and Miss Casewell (Marissa Luing) listen apprehensively. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

 

by Bruce Strand, Arts editor

Zimmermam High School Theatre entered the challenging genre of whodunit drama for its spring play and seems to have solved the case pretty well, presenting a good rendition of “The Mousetrap” on opening night Friday.

The ensemble cast led by Laenea Halter, and directed by Jon Palashewski, will be back in front of the floodlights (you can’t say “on stage” because ZHS doesn’t have one yet) on Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria/auditrium.

The ill-fated Mrs. Boyle (Maranda Berndt) icily gets acquainted with Giles (James Kossila), her host. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

 

It’s a serious yarn about two hours long (counting a 15-minute break) set in a 1950’s English boarding house with five disparate newly-arrived house guests snow-bound with their increasingly uneasy hosts, Mollie and Giles Ralston, along with a curt young detective who shows up on skis to investigate a connection to a local murder.

There’s intriguing plot twists, tons of dialogue, and complex characters who also seem to have something hidden beneath the surfaces. A guest gets killed in the house, suspicions grow, and the actors, as in any Agatha Christie tale, must engage the audience to become amateur sleuths and try determine the killer.

The cast and crew  pulled off all this pretty smoothly their first night out. No hitches, no muffed lines. At one point a single poker by the fireplace slipped off its stand but that was about it.

“With this group, including a few in their first time, all the kid seem very natural onstage with their reactions,” noted Palashewski.

Mollie (Laenea Halter) fusses with a shopping list before things start to get crazy at Monkswell Manor, a boarding house she and her husband have just started. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Halter, as Mollie Ralston, was the fulcrum, involved in virtually every scene.

“We worked with her on what she was going to do with all that time on stage,” said Palashewski, “things like moving around, and using her hands, and when she got into her character she really picked up on that.”

Halter, a junior, was trying acting for the first time.

“I had never heard of the play, and never heard of Agatha Christie,” she cheerfully acknowledged, adding that she joined up because several of her friends were involved. “There was a lot of lines. It was stressful but fun.

Christopher (Vince Snyder), normally cheerful and chatty, frets a bit while listening to the detective address the folks in Monkswell Manor. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

We’ve gotten better and better.”

Especially for such a novice she handled the twists and turns nicely, and let out a pretty convincing scream when she discovered Mrs. Boyle’s dead body.

Maranda Berndt, a hoot last fall as a self-serving orphanage head in “Annie,” is delightfully irritating as the wealthy, snobbish, ever-complaining Mrs. Boyle. “It was fun getting to play a snooty person, which I can be, but I’m not,” she giggled.

The capable cast also has James Kossila as Mollie’s exasperated husband Giles, trying to keep his house (and wife) in the clear amid all the hubub; Vince Snyder as Christopher Wren, an engaging but too-cheery 20-something with an eye on Mollie; Zach Rapf as Metcalf, an agreeable army officer exuding military bearing; Marissa Luing as Miss Casewell, an independent, chain-smoking, above-it-all traveller; Ryan Olson as an outgoing, flamboyant mystery guest, Mr. Paravicini, who shows  up unannounced; and Chet Peterson as Trotter, the stern but disturbingly youthful detective who might have something to hide himself.

Anyone who’d like to meet this colorful crew and figure out which one has the dark secret has two more chances to check it out, tonight and Sunday afternoon.

James and Mollie (Laenea Halter and James Kossila) aren't sure what to make of a mysterious unnannounced guest, the bombastic Mr. Paravincini (Ryan Olson). (Photo by Bruce Strand)

 

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