Giving Tree’s new owners kick off their first season with ‘The Mousetrap’

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The Mousetrap

Giving Tree Theater — through Aug. 25

The cast of Giving Tree Theater’s ‘The Mousetrap.’ — courtesy of Giving Tree Theater

This past April, Jamie and Andrea Henley were talking about opening a small business — one where their whole family could participate and one that would be an important part of the community. Three months later, they became the new owners of Giving Tree Theatre in Marion. About a month after that, they opened their first show, The Mousetrap, by Agatha Christie.

An important part of the Giving Tree legacy is that each production donates a portion of the proceeds to a local non-profit. The beneficiary of The Mousetrap is Foundation 2 Crisis Services, which provides prevention and intervention programs for people of all ages.

In addition to the community support, the Henleys are continuing the motto of “Great stories told with great heart,” while offering audiences a cozy seat. When you go to Giving Tree, you should know that the seats are couches and armchairs — no hard, cramped auditorium seats here! Wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages are offered for sale, as well as popcorn. For The Mousetrap‘s opening night, audience members were treated to a complimentary chocolate from the Marion Chocolate Shop.

The Mousetrap is directed by Andrea Henley and Danielle Lee. As one of the longest running shows in the world, it relies on the good will of its audiences not to divulge “whodunit.” The premise of the play is that a newlywed couple have opened a guest house, and their first weekend in the business finds them in the middle of a snowstorm with a news story about a recent local murder on the radio. The guests arrive with their luggage and peculiarities in tow.

The play opens with Giles and Mollie (Caleb Haselhuhn and Allison Sylvester, respectively) preparing for their first guests to arrive. The personalities of the guests come into focus during the first half of the play. Getting to know the odd characters who have come to stay at Monkswell Manor is much of the fun of the play.

(L-R) Barbara Arceneaux, Scott Hughes and Tom Sharpe in ‘The Mousetrap.’ — courtesy of Giving Tree Theater

The first to arrive is Christopher Wren, who is oddly and humorously portrayed by Nick Cherrier. Throughout the play, Cherrier delivers a character who offers comedic relief at just the right moments. Mrs. Boyle (Barb Arceneaux) and Major Metcalf (Tom Sharpe) show up next. Arceneaux and Sharpe play foils to each other: one a persnickety former magistrate; the other, a relaxed former soldier.

As the arrivals continue we meet a strident activist, in Emily Irwin’s character Miss Casewell, and jovial Mr. Paravicini (Scott Hughes). Both Irwin and Hughes create characters whose energy and personalities are among the highlights of the show. Finally, Detective Sergeant Trotter (Jaden Henley) shows up to question the guests in relation to the murder in town.

What ensues are typical murder-mystery hijinks, including another murder, questioning the guests and a bizarre re-enactment. Because the pacing can be slow and the dialogue monotone at times, the actors become the focus, and one can’t help but enjoy the characters they have created. The interesting flow of the relationships comes center stage as the actors bring their characters to life through the discovery of whodunit.

Jamie and Jaden Henley created the lighting design. Andrea oversaw costuming, and Jamie and Andrea designed the set, making this show a true family affair. The Henleys note that one of their goals is to expand community involvement in all shows; they want to provide on-going opportunities for a wide variety of community members. This vision includes providing more opportunities for youth actors, a particular passion of Andrea’s. Andrea noted that fostering youth productions creates future actors, directors and audience members for adult plays.

The Mousetrap runs through Aug. 25; tickets are $27.86. The Henleys’ first season at Giving Tree follows with The Importance of Being Earnest, opening Sept. 6.

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