Preview: 'The Mousetrap' promises to lure in murder mystery lovers

Guests at Monkswell Manor are questioned by Detective Sergeant Trotter, Benjamin Jacob, about a local murder during a rehearsal for the Naples Players’ production of “The Mousetrap” Friday, April 5, 2013 at Sugden Community Theatre in Naples.

Photo by KHARLI ROSE // Buy this photo

Guests at Monkswell Manor are questioned by Detective Sergeant Trotter, Benjamin Jacob, about a local murder during a rehearsal for the Naples Players’ production of “The Mousetrap” Friday, April 5, 2013 at Sugden Community Theatre in Naples.

If you go

What: The Naples Players presents Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit thriller with a twist ending

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays April 17-May 11

Where: Sugden Community Theater, 701 Fifth Ave. S., Naples

Cost: $35, adults and $10, children 18 and younger

More:naplesplayers.org or 239-263-7990

— In a digital world, keeping anything a secret is tough. Google knows what you’ve been searching for. Your phone knows where you’ve been and who you’ve been talking to. And your Facebook friends, well, they pretty much know everything else.

But the Naples Players hopes you’ll keep the surprise ending of “The Mousetrap” a secret. For 60 years, actors in the Agatha Christie “whodunit” have been appealing to their audiences to, well, keep their traps shut. And for the most part, it’s worked. The show is the longest continually running play in the world, with new playgoers being shocked by the ending night after night for decades.

In the digital age, it has been harder, however. In 2010, Christie’s heirs went back and forth with Wikipedia personnel over the ending of the play being published on the online encyclopedia site. To this day, the ending can still be found on the play’s Wikipedia page. But the show’s director, Paul Graffy, isn’t too worried about audience members live-tweeting the production.

“Do I worry about people giving away the ending on social media? No, I don’t really,” Graffy said. “If people enjoy the show, I think they realize that not giving away the ending is part of enabling others to enjoy the show.”

And even if you do know how it ends, Graffy insists the show is still enjoyable.

“I know the show very well, but I’ve been enjoying working on it because it’s so well-plotted. Any of the players has a motive and an opportunity to have done it; it’s really a masterpiece,” he said.

One other thing he points out: if you think you’ve seen the movie, you haven’t.

“People say, ‘Oh, Mousetrap, yeah, I saw the movie,’ but there has never been a movie done of Mousetrap.”

The play is set in post-World War II Great Britain, in a manor house converted into a guesthouse. Two murders happen in the first act, one before the first scene even opens. A few of the guests at the manor are of the offbeat variety, and as snow starts falling outside the house, the rumors start flying inside. A full-on blizzard begins, and as the guests find themselves snowed in — presumably with the murderer among them — panic grows.

“The characters are kind of these great clichés, but when you stop and think about it, these are what the clichés were written after,” said Erin Laughlin, who plays Mollie Ralston, one of the innkeepers.

She adds, “They weren’t clichés when this was written — they’re the originals.”

If Laughlin looks familiar in her role, it’s because she’s played it before. Mollie Ralston was Laughlin’s first-ever part with the Naples players in 1989.

“Well, I’m certainly not 23, so that’s different,” she joked while describing how she plans to play the character this time around. “It was my very first play, and I’ve learned so much since then, so there’s a lot more confidence this time around.”

Graffy said when he cast her, he didn’t know Laughlin had played the role before. Nonetheless, she and her cast mates — including Ann Hoover as the ornery Mrs. Boyle, Benjamin Jacob as Trotter and Sepp Ronay as Major Metcalf — are making the show.

“I’ve always liked Agatha Christie, she creates really good characters,” Graffy said. “And the humor is very British. It’s like, ‘Wait, did you just insult me?’ ”

Ann Hoover, who plays Mrs. Boyle, hopes that people won’t think she’s actually like her character in real life. Nonetheless, she loves playing roles like this.

“It’s just great fun. She’s this very cranky ill-tempered woman. She’s quite something, quite the character.”

While Graffy isn’t tampering with the play too much, he does have a few innovations in mind. The time period of the play will stay, because, as he said, “you really can’t mess with that. The mores of the time are just so inherent to the script.”

He said one of the virtues of the show is its, “brilliant nostalgic feel.”

However, he has rounded up the suggested ages of the characters. Giles and Mollie are not in their early 20s as the script originally suggested.

“It’s supposed to be that the characters haven’t seen each other in a few years, and having them in their early 20s doesn’t make as much sense. I really wanted it to be that they hadn’t seen each other in a long time, so they’re a few years older.”

Graffy also has a few artistic changes in mind with costuming and set design, but he’s asking that those be kept a surprise for opening night. And in the spirit of “The Mousetrap,” we can’t help but oblige him.

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