Sept. 24, 2010 performance reviewed by Frances Benn Hall.
Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound, on the schedule at Shakespeare and Co. through November 7, 2010, is on one level full of the suspense, intrigue, and slapstick one associates with a spoof of an Agatha Christie mystery. However, the play is a play within a play, set in a theatre and the two reviewers, sent to view and comment on it, are very much a part of the play itself. Indeed, it is their involvement with what occurs on the stage, complicated with their own self-doubts and angst that brings in an almost Beckett chill underlying the constant roars of laughter that the play evokes.
Everything in the play is in someway double. The set ting is the theatre in which we sit but it is also the vast drawing room of the lonely English house on the moors round which lurk both fog and murder. The reviewers are on the job. So are the actors. But we are in a weird world. A phone on stage may be ringing for a reviewer in the stalls.
The eight actors who thread through this maze of delight are delights in themselves. The zest into which they throw themselves is not only praiseworthy but almost beyond the call of duty. They not only move furniture with alacrity but at times hurl themselves down upon it, or under it or leap over it with such gusto that one feels that perhaps Stoppard should have included in his cast the call for “is there a doctor in the house?”
Director Croy has ssembled a talented and dedicated cast who throw themselves into every moment of the play—even the pauses. And there is a moment when a pause is part of the dialog!
Birdboot (Josh Aaron McCabe) and Moon (Enrico Spada) are both critics, though Spada is a much more uptight one, second string for his establishment. Birdboot is delightfully extravert and overbearing—until he finds himself involved in the plot and participating in the wildest card game ever staged. Moon’s insecurity pulls him, bow-tie and all,onto the stage and into the brooding side of the plot which among other things, involves the power (or lack of it) for the critic himself.
Of the manor’s inhabitants, my favorite had the fewest lines but the most hilarious gait. Meg O’Connor as Mrs Drudge, the help, and how she did help, poor thing…dusting away, hearing on the radio the dire news, dusting away, blindly adding sugar to the tea. She was perfect down to her sturdy, unshapely ankles.
Dana Harrison as Lady Cynthia swept about the manor in her slender beauty. The manor was her domain and she ruled it, with vigor and seductiveness. Men melted at her kisses. As well they might Despite her fragile beauty and great seductiveness, she moved furniture with swirling agility and leapt perilously over it at will.
Alexandra Lincoln, second female lead and not as femme fatale as Lady C, did get to have the lovely moment twice of bounding thru the French doors, center back with the lovely “tennis anyone´ moment. She also threw herself with gusto into the card games which wildly engaged anyone willing or unwilling to play. (She even had a lovely romantic name –-Felicity, though neither lucky in the play in either love or cards.)
Scott Renzoni as the Major Magnus was wheel chair bound until the plot released his scotch plaid, and he could unwind the even ancient plots and undo the past. David Joseph got to die twice as the mysterious stranger, Simon Gascoyne. And graced center stage dramatically.
Inspector Hound (Wolfe Coleman) had one of the lovely lines concerning his brief presence. When suggesting someone call the police and being informed he was the police, he responded, “Lucky I’m here.” Stoppard can do so much with three words!
By the end of the brief ninety minute play, all tangles were quickly unbound (or not). This is a charming play. Go.