Script falls short in The Mouse House

Community theatre’s underwhelming take on psychological thriller

The play's set.
Photo: 

The Domino Theatre’s production of The Mouse House proves community theatre is alive, but not always good. 

From Oct. 18 to Nov. 3, in The Davies Foundation Auditorium, Domino Theatre presented Robert Ainsworth’s psychological thriller, which won Best Production in the Eastern Ontario Drama League Full-Length Play Festival.  

After its initial premiere in Peterborough in 2012, the play has been produced in Ottawa and Toronto, before the current showing in Kingston. 

Despite its successes, the play is far from perfect, with its characters failing to compensate for a poorly written script.

The beginning seemed promising. When Sandy Turcotte walked onstage to begin her performance she gave a confident, commanding performance that grabbed the audience’s attention within a few a minutes as she mothered the lead character, Carson, a best-selling author,

As Bobby, Turcotte plays his over-protective literary agent.

In the show’s opening, she drops Carson off for a solitary stay at his family cottage, where he plans to finish his next book. He’s been unable to write anything for months, leaving him desperate for isolation and inspiration, but Bobby is worried about leaving him alone. 

She insists on leaving him a phone but Carson refuses. 

Turcotte delivered a convincing performance, and in the short amount of time she was onstage, the audience believed she was truly concerned about leaving Carson behind. She pesters him to check in with her every day, conveying her worry with each insistent request. 

Her performance was proof small characters can have a huge impact—especially since she’s onstage for only ten minutes out of the 90-minute play. 

After Turcotte’s exit, the plot’s many twists and turns were awkward and uncomfortable, leading to otherwise competent actors struggling to save a stilted script.

In the first twist, after Carson is left alone, Troy—played by first-time actor, Tom Abram—breaks into his cottage. The startled author knocks him unconscious, chaining Troy to a bed in a panic.

However, the following dialogue between the two characters is too unnatural to maintain the tension.

Troy yells and swears at Carson, but before long, begins sharing details from his childhood. He recounts how his sister nursed him through a heroin detox, and how his mother used to tell him he talked too much, saying he has fish lips because they’re always opening and closing.

It doesn’t logically fit into the captor and captive narrative the script already established. Troy should be horrified to chained to a stranger’s bed. He shouldn’t immediately be chatting with Carson while the two form an unlikely friendship. 

Likewise, Carson should be more anxious that he’s kidnapped someone. He could at least be productive enough to use it as inspiration for his book.  

The relationship between the two is simply awkward and confusing. One moment of the play, Carson will help Troy overcome a heroin withdrawal and then the next minute turn around and hold a gun to his head while Troy attempts to escape.  

They’re caricatures. Troy is an angry, misbehaving young criminal with no redeeming qualities—making him hard to empathize with despite being a kidnapping victim. 

In contrast, Carson, is an unremarkable character whose decision to hold Troy captive isn’t at all explained by his backstory or his character traits. 

These shallow characters don’t have the background to uphold the unbelievable twists and turns The Mouse House presents. 

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