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If the holidays haven’t brought you enough surprises, never fear. There’s at least one post-holiday astonishment still on tap: Agatha Christie’s mystery thriller Rats, chock full of shocks and plot contortions.

Produced and performed by The Players, an Asheville-based theater troupe, Rats is the story of two people mysteriously invited to a flat in London for a dinner party. It doesn’t take the couple long to realize they’ve been lured there under false pretenses, and they soon find themselves trapped — like rats. Get it?

“I don’t want to give the plot away, but murder is involved,” offers Players Artistic Director Jane Paige. “Agatha Christie was, of course, a very prolific writer and loved murder plots with twists and turns. Nothing [in her work] is ever as it seems.”

Paige should know. In the two years since she founded the Players, the troupe has included a number of Christie’s works among the 17 different plays it has presented. “We’ve done Murder on the Nile, Mousetrap and Ten Little Indians, among others,” Paige points out.

Rats will be a dinner-theater production. “For dinner theater … light comedy, light mystery goes over well,” Paige explains. “Blood and gore doesn’t appeal to those audiences, so [Christie is perfect], because her mysteries are never gory, only situational.”

Paige, a veteran British stage actress and former hostess of several BBC “chat” shows, moved to the U.S. a few years ago with her mother, who’s also an accomplished thespian. Doing textbook research for a New York-based publishing company, the two traveled to Florida, where they settled for a time. Eventually, while performing in regional plays, Paige discovered and fell in love with western North Carolina. In 1995, she established The Players, bringing together actors from Asheville, Hendersonville and points beyond.

The Players include a rotating core group of actors who hone their skills in productions which are relentlessly rehearsed, performed, put away, then later brushed off and revamped for more performances in different venues. The cast of Rats will include five seasoned actors who’ve worked with Paige before.

While the Players’ work is mostly repertory-style theater with a constantly changing smorgasbord of locations, audiences and plays, the group performs four main stage productions at UNCA’s Lipinsky Auditorium every year. Recent offerings have included Deathtrap, A Streetcar Named Desire, Lion in Winter and a 100th anniversary tribute to Count Dracula.

As for Rats, Paige promises it will thrill you and chill you — but it won’t kill your appetite.

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