Can you keep one of the theater world’s longest-running secrets?
If so, you should race to see Vashon High School’s drama students perform “The Mousetrap” this weekend — an Agatha Christie murder mystery that has stood the test of time in its record-shattering run on London’s West End since 1952.
The thoroughly modern theater kids at VHS serve Christie’s old-fashioned play straight up, embracing the show’s vintage appeal and allowing the audience to fully concentrate on its central, vexing question: in a creaky country guesthouse full of mysterious and comic strangers, who is capable of multiple murders most foul?
Following West End tradition, the VHS production begins with a somber announcement, made right before the lights come up on stage, requesting those in attendance not to ruin the fun for future audiences by revealing “whodunit” after the play.
We wouldn’t dream of doing that here, of course.
But we’re happy to repeat what shouldn’t be a secret to anyone who attended a recent high school theater production at VHS: the school’s current crop of thespians is a talented, tight-knit, and extremely hardworking ensemble.
Under the guidance of theater teacher Andy James, the school’s drama students have tackled everything from Shakespeare (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) to an original production of “Alice in Wonderland” in the past two years.
They’ve also shown their knack for creating suspense in spooky productions of “A Spirited Manor” and “The Witch of Edmonton,” honing the skills they are using now to snap “The Mousetrap” into place.
But even so, the gifted group of young theater artists has gone to the next level with this particular production.
On the first day of rehearsal for “The Mousetrap,” James made the wise decision to hand over the directorial reins of “The Mousetrap” to Theo Strain — a theater student who had previously worked on the costume crew of several previous productions.
“From that time until now, Theo has held the play entirely in his guidance, observing every detail with meticulous attention I would like to have myself someday,” James wrote, in a program note for the show.
Indeed, Strain’s debut directorial effort is astounding, delivering the tight pacing and intricate choreography the murder mystery deserves.
And have I mentioned that the show is also incredibly funny?
Henry Sutherland, in his portrayal of an overly emotional and opinionated young architect, repeatedly brings the house down with his booming delivery and finely tuned, flamboyant physical comedy.
Chris Wechkin, who plays a detective out to catch the murderer, commands the stage but also keeps the audience chuckling with his exasperated asides.
Adam Ingalls, a veteran of six previous VHS productions, doesn’t disappoint as Mr. Paravicini, a mysterious last-minute arrival at the guesthouse.
Chloe Bay and Mateo Grey’s performances as the hapless and sometimes hysterical owners of the guest house are pitch-perfect, as is Ella Saffery’s stern portrayal of an impossible-to-please matronly guest.
Rounding out the cast are Isaac Huff, who ably tackles the role of yet another guest with plenty of secrets to hide, and CJ Clemmensen, playing the part of an implacable middle-aged military man who might or might not have a hidden agenda.
The work of the show’s design and technical teams also shines.
Dylan Fick and Kris Hurley are responsible for the handsome set, and costumer Stephanie Blower, assisted by Eden Guthery and make-up artist Frances Alexander, has also done impressive work.
Declan O’Brien, the sound artist for the show, gets every note right.
Jem Macomber-Straight, handling props, deserves special mention. Much of the business of the show, and some of its humor, is dependent on dozens of hard-to-source props: everything from vintage newspapers and skis, to dastardly weapons and much much more.
Here too, every object seemed to look just right and to have been set perfectly in place by Macomber-Straight.
Rounding out the tech crew, Neve DeVoght, Lilly Odegaard, Sasha Hilwig, and Del Little-Lawing have also no doubt contributed to the show’s smooth sailing.
Bravo, theater kids — all of you, onstage and off. You’ve done Agatha Christie proud. And with your chutzpah and theater training, we can’t wait to see what you do next.
“The Mousetrap” will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10 and 11, at VHS Theater. Tickets — $12 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors — can be purchased at the door.