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'Mousetrap' Takes To the Stage

2nd Flight Productions performs Agatha Christie's play Jan. 21-29.

A group of bizarre strangers is snowbound together in a house — and one of them's a killer. These are the classic ingredients of the Agatha Christie murder mystery, "Mousetrap."

And the Centreville based, community-theater group, 2nd Flight Productions, will be performing it Friday-Saturday, Jan. 21-22, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 23, at 2 p.m.; and Friday-Saturday, Jan. 28-29, at 8 p.m., at the Cramer Center, 9008 Center St., in Old Town Manassas.

Tickets are $10/person at the door or via www.2ndflightproductions.com. Call 703-927-5438.

"IT'S A laugh-out-loud whodunnit," said co-president of 2nd Flight Productions, Shannon Khatcheressian, also a drama director at Chantilly High. "It's been playing on London's West End Theatre District for years. It's the longest-running show there, ever."

She's one of eight cast members including David Bonner, Quest Brannock, Bob Chaves, Roberta Chaves, Nano Gowland, Bill Kitzerow and Carla Okouchi. Steve Cramer is doing the lighting design, and Kevin King, sound.

Stage managers are Warren Reid and Megan Shipman; producer is Jackie Wormsley. Shipman and Wormsley live in Centreville, and director Rebekah McKendry and Khatcheressian live in Centreville's Marleigh Downs community.

Co-president McKendry teaches film at Robinson Secondary School, coaches drama and does choreography. And she said it's "fantastic" directing "Mousetrap." Said McKendry: "The cast is very enthusiastic and willing to work hard. They want things to be perfect, and they have great charisma between them."

Since presenting "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" last August, she said, 2nd Flight Productions has been well-received by the community. "We're all a group of theater majors from Virginia Tech with professional and community-theater backgrounds," she explained. "We became established in February 2003. We saw the great response that school plays in the area received, but there was no community theater in Centreville."

IN "MOUSETRAP," Khatcheressian plays Mollie Ralston, and Bonner plays her husband Giles. "They're a young couple who've just opened her aunt's old house as a guest house, in 1940s London," said Khatcheressian. "There's a murder in London, and people get snowed in at the guest house. The police call and say one of the eight guests is the killer."

Sgt. Trotter, a detective, skis to the house to interrogate everyone and figure out who the killer is before he strikes again. But a guest is killed and, soon, everyone's wondering who they can trust.

Describing Mollie as a young, energetic over-achiever, Khatcheressian said she married Giles after only knowing him for three weeks. "Mollie was more in love with the idea of being married," she said. "She's a perfectionist and suspects everyone around her."

"It's difficult playing her because she's not headstrong like me, so I have to be more timid and reserved," said Khatcheressian. "But it's fun. I'm always behind the scenes directing, choreographing or performing in a musical, so I'm thoroughly enjoying performing in a play."

Khatcheressian said McKendry is "extremely talented and helped the cast gel. There's really good chemistry between everyone." She also believes the play will be a hit with audiences. "It's suspenseful and hilarious, all the way through, so you're either cracking up or gripping the edge of your seat," she said. "That makes it challenging to play — an emotional rollercoaster — but, hopefully, we'll be able to convey this to the audience."

The cast has rehearsed, several nights a week, at Chantilly High since December, and is now increasing to five or six nights a week. McKendry says the play's really coming together and has a little something for everyone — mystery, humor, 1945 history and great characters.

"We hope the audience will really enjoy it — and that's why we do theater," she said. "It's the best time we could possibly imagine."

Playing Sgt. Trotter is Centreville's Bill Kitzerow. "He's sent by his supervisor to investigate," he said. "He really wants to get at the facts and is no-nonsense and very serious. He's suspicious of everybody, and his No. 1 priority is to ensure everyone's safety so no one else will get murdered."

KITZEROW TOOK drama classes at NOVA and has performed in community theater in the local area. He has lots of lines and several long monologues in "Mousetrap," but he's delighted to be part of the ensemble and is really having a good time.

"People in the cast are very talented," he said. "The other cast members make it fun." He, too, believes the audience will like the show. "There's comedy, drama and suspense," he explained. "You want to try to guess who the killer is and who the next victim will be, and that's fun. That's what makes it appealing."

David Bonner, a Chantilly High chemistry teacher with theater experience in high school and in college, portrays Giles Ralston. "I enjoy performing and working with a team of individuals toward a common goal," he said. "And it's nice getting to know people you might not know, otherwise."

He describes his character as "something of a grump. He definitely has anger-management issues, particularly when it comes to running a hotel. I did apartment-management at one time, and the tenants can really stretch your patience, so I can identify."

Bonner said Giles and Mollie know nothing about running a guest house, and then all these strange guests arrive. "Agatha Christie had a deliciously wicked sense of humor, and it really comes through in this play," he said. "It's a lot of work rehearsing, but it really is a positive ending to the day. No matter what kind of day you've had, you're going to end up with these creative, high-energy people — and it gives you something to look forward to."

He says Giles is a perfect role for him. "After teaching chemistry all day to 150 screaming kids, I'm grumpy, anyway — it's not acting," said Bonner. "All Giles wants to do is sit down with a cigar, newspaper and a nice brandy and relax. Instead, he has to look after this guest house."

He said the audience will enjoy it because it "always takes its cue from the people on stage, and we'll be having fun. If we're having a blast, they won't be able to help but come along for the ride."

2nd Flight Productions welcomes new members, and experience isn't required. "We'll be happy to teach them," said McKendry. Call her at 703-815-8347 or e-mail boxoffice@2ndflightproductions.com. Next production will be "Jesus Christ Superstar," with auditions Feb. 7-8, at 7 p.m., in Chantilly High's black-box theater, room 106. It will be performed in May.