Agatha Christie's play, The Mousetrap, has been the longest, continuously-running play in modern-day theater history at the West End in London.
Since it debuted there in 1952, the actors have asked audiences at the curtain call not to reveal the twist ending to anyone who hasn't seen the play.
It's a tradition that has survived the decades, no matter where the classic whodunit is performed the world over.
The Richland Players kick off 2014 with their own production of The Mousetrap on Jan. 17. The show continues weekend runs through Feb. 2 at The Players Theatre in Richland.
The show's producer, Michael Wutzke, said the tradition of keeping the secret is half the fun of producing Mousetrap.
"Part of the fun and attraction of staging The Mousetrap is the tradition and history of not giving away the play's ending," Wutzke said. "The play is all about suspicion. And after our curtain calls, the actors will keep with that tradition and ask the audience not to reveal the ending."
Director Kristin Lerch said she chose to direct The Mousetrap for pretty much the same reason as Wutzke.
"This play is truly fun to direct, and mysteries are truly a fan favorite," Lerch said. "I love it when an audience laughs at the right moment, or at intermission they're discussing plot points."
Lerch said she chose her cast for a number of reasons.
"I look for people who can express all the ranges of emotions," she said. "We do not use microphones on our actors, so they have to be heard and understood. I also try to cast people who are new to the theater. It's a great way to get more people involved (with theater)."
The Mousetrap is a murder mystery that starts out in London with the murder of a young woman. The action then moves to the countryside estate of Monkswell Manor that was recently converted into a guesthouse run by a young couple, Mollie and Giles Ralston, played by Samantha Weakley and Will Thurston.
Their first four guests are Christopher Wren, played by Cameron Rush; Mrs. Boyle, played by Nadine Haglin; Major Metcalf, played by Bill McMahon; and, Miss Casewell, played by Heidi Dagle. All are Tri-City actors.
When an unexpected traveler arrives, he claims his car plowed into a snowdrift, but the Ralstons are leery of him. The traveler, Mr. Paravicini, is played by Mark Miranda.
Everyone at the manor reads about the London murder in the newspaper, and it doesn't take long for suspicions to fall on various people at the house, who are stranded by the snowstorm.
Det. Sgt. Trotter, played by Christopher Wilson, arrives on a pair of skis because he believes one of the people in the manor is the killer. And so the investigation begins.
"I think the reason The Mousetrap has been so successful as a play has numerous components," Lerch said. "It was written by one of the greatest storytellers of all time, Agatha Christie. It has a wide range of fascinating characters, which allows the audience to undoubtedly find and connect with someone on the stage.
"And again, mysteries usually combine so many elements of theater -- comedy, tragedy, drama -- along with intrigue and puzzle solving for the audience. It's just a great night of entertainment."
Curtain time is 8 p.m. Jan. 17-18, 24-25, 31 and Feb. 1 with 2 p.m. matinees Jan. 26 and Feb. 2. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors and are available at www.richlandplayers.org, the Players Theatre box office at 610 The Parkway or by calling 943-1991.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal