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Agatha Christie’s Mystery Play by Saakaar a Polished Production

November 2005
Agatha Christie’s Mystery Play by Saakaar a Polished Production

Agatha Christie's play, "The Mousetrap," is the longest running play in the world, spanning five decades in London. It was staged at the Berkmar High School auditorium in Atlanta on October 1st and 2nd by Saakaar, a nonprofit theater group, which is gaining wide recognition for its professional productions. The core group of Saakaar, Anuraag Misraraj, Dr Swaroop Nyshadham, and Amitabh Sharma, were all involved in dramatics back home. Anuraag and Swaroop met in a temple and, talking about their mutual passion for theater, exchanged phone numbers. Amitabh and Swaroop met on a flight to India and, on finding out about their mutual passion for the dramatic arts, also exchanged numbers! The other actors joined after meeting people interested in theater at parties and then attending open auditions?and Saakaar was born.

Their first production was the often produced, well liked Neil Simon comedy, "The Odd Couple," staged in September 2002, followed by the very colorful folk-based musical presentation "Ballabhpur Ki Roopkatha" by Badal Sarklar in May 2003 with songs and dances composed by Sandeep and Kumud Savla, both under the aegis of the IACA.

Since 2003 Saakaar has become a nonprofit entity and has come up with two stellar productions, "Rumors" by Neil Simon and "Ek Tha Gadha," the well known Hindi satire by Sharad Joshi. The focus, says Anuraag Misraraj, is to come up with productions in both English and Hindi in order to get both the older and the younger generations who are not very fluent in Hindi involved.

"The Mousetrap" begins with a scream and a radio announcement leading to the facts that a murderer is on the prowl in the middle of the worst snowstorm England has faced. It is not an auspicious start for the owners of Monkswell Manor Guest House, Molly (Rinku Rajan) and Giles Ralston (Rahul Bali), who, as it is, have no help and not much information about the five guests who have registered to check into the place. The murderer is described as a "person of medium height, wearing a dark coat, light felt hat and with a muffler over the face," a description that could fit a man or a woman. A note near the body shows three blind mice with one of the mice cut out and two remaining.

The five guests bring their own baggage and eccentricities. "All of our guests are either unpleasant or odd," Mollie says to her husband about the strangers and soon-to-be suspects. There is the overexuberant and hyperactive architect, Christopher Wren (Gaurav Bakshi), the pompous ex-magistrate Mrs. Boyles (Ketna Mistry), the bulldoggish military man Major Metcalfe (Sanjay Mannan), the brash and aggressive woman Leslie Casewell (Prachi Mehta), and the strange foreigner, who turns up out of the blue because his car overturned in the snowstorm, the irreverent Mr. Parvicini (Swaroop Nyshadham).

Just when everyone is beginning to feel spooked, a police detective (Anurag Goel) skies in to question the snowbound suspects. Then another murder takes place soon after, and the whodunit game begins.

The detective starts probing into the past of every guest. Carefully planted red herrings, insinuations, and innuendos make it seem as if everyone present is somehow linked to the tragic childhood of two young children and perhaps the murder. The seemingly innocent nursery rhyme "Three Blind Mice" resonates again and again in the interiors adding to already frazzled nerves. "Things aren't often as they seem" becomes the underlying mantra, and when the truth emerges it is as surprising as any of the endings for which Agatha Christie has become so well known.

The 1940s set was reproduced with flawless detail. For that, codirector Anuraag Misraraj gives credit to Purna Ahuja, an art teacher, and Abir Mullick, who is Director of the Industrial Design Program at Georgia Tech's School of Architecture. Several others with carpentry skills helped out to create the ambiance of an old home converted into an inn.

All the characters did justice to their roles, but Rinku Ranjan as Molly and Gaurav Bakshi as the flighty Chris Wren were outstanding. Rahul Bali's good performance was overshadowed by his soft delivery.

The play took several months of meticulous rehearsals and time off from busy schedules for the actors who do this for the love of theater and who have full time jobs.

Saakaar plans to showcase a spring production, which is likely to be a comedy in Hindi. www.saakaar.net

- Kavita Chhibber

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