Mysteries take center stage

Parenting is full of mysteries. Why siblings raised in the same home have such different personalities. Why teenagers don’t recognize the infinite wisdom of their elders. Why toddlers find pots and pans more fascinating than all those fancy toys.

Natalie Schmidt as Mollie Ralston in the Hale Theatre production of The Mousetrap

But sometimes it’s nice to enjoy mysteries of other people’s making. Mystery writer Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” is being performed at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert through Sat, Oct 8. The play follows guests at Monkswell Manor snowed in on a wintry night as one of them turns up dead and the rest work to uncover the killer.

“The Mousetrap” opened in 1952 in London, where it’s still performed today — making it the world’s longest running play. Folks favoring mysteries with a shorter run can follow the campaign foreplay of the Christie who calls New Jersey home. Or the trial of Michael Jackson’s so-called doctor.

Arizona Theatre Company opens its world-premiere production of playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Suicide Club” Thurs, Oct 13 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

There’s nothing funny about suicide, of course — something Governor Christie seems to have overlooked in all that “I’m not running” rhetoric. But the topic has been treated by various writers through the ages, including Robert Louis Stevenson — whose trio of short stories dubbed “The Suicide Club” was first published in 1878 by “London Magazine.”

I read the online ATC play guide one night after attempts to watch a bloody crop of television crime series season premieres left me nauseous. I prefer murder and mayhem theater style. I crave food for thought more than I hunger for violence.

Arizona Theatre Company describes “Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Suicide Club” as a “puzzling mystery that questions the boundaries of friendship, love and murder.” But the study guide hints at the work’s subtler themes — the evolution of war, citizen searches for justice outside the law, the nature of addictive personalities and more.

Mark Anders and Remi Sandri in the Arizona Theatre Company production of Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Suicide Club (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

My husband recalls reading plenty of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories as a child. If I’ve read even one, I don’t remember it. I get the feeling we’d both find plenty to enjoy in Hatcher’s work — which takes a playful rather than purist approach to the character of Sherlock Holmes.

I was intrigued to learn from the play guide that while Conan Doyle rarely has Sherlock Holmes use telephones or other technology of the day, technology was critical in helping Hatcher research Holmes’ character. Apparently Hatcher’s first foray into the Amazon Kindle was checking on whether certain words or phrases were used in Holmes dialogue written by Conan Doyle.

Like the play “War Horse,” which continues to enjoy galloping ticket sales in London and NYC, Hatcher’s “Sherlock Holmes” reflects the impact of changing technology on cultures in conflict. I get the feeling that the play’s reference to suicide speaks to something beyond isolated acts of desperation.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Hale Centre Theatre, here to learn more about Arizona Theatre Company, here to explore the works to Agatha Christie, here to explore the work of Arthur Conan Doyle and here to visit London’s Sherlock Holmes Museum. Click here for suicide prevention resources.

Coming up: Valley visual arts offerings, Hedgehog meets goldfish, More NYC adventures

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