Taking the rest of Stoppard’s plays into account, THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND (playing through Sept. 25th ) is a trifle but a darn clever one. Stoppard manages to send up whodunits while mocking the theatrical form itself. And he takes a swipe at critics to boot. (Stoppard was a theater critic himself for the Bristol Evening World.)
It’s no secret. Stoppard is my favorite playwright and the Publick Theatre has mounted several of his plays while other theaters keep their distance. Let’s hope they don’t stop because Diego Arciniegas and company know how to nail that arch British style of high “wit in the face of adversity.”
Barlow Adamson portrays a second string drama critic looking for “God” in all the wrong places (including in the murder mystery play-within-the-play before him). Instead he finds a leading role for himself – and his destiny. Adamson plays wrong headed certainty with daffy gusto. William Gardiner is likewise hilarious as the other critic who would be more than delighted to take any of the gorgeous actresses in the play under his “influential” wing.
Now to the murder plot: Stoppard gives us an Agatha Christie load of suspects but who done it is not Stoppard’s game. The who’s who are what’s important in HOUND. Sheriden Thomas gives a star turn as the housekeeper who upstages everyone merely by serving tea. (Director Arciniegas gets wonderful laughs by milking the cream and sugar.)
Georgia Lyman plays a cool sophisto in love with her missing husband – but not so much that she won’t dally with a handsome stranger. Danny Bryck masters that fabulous aristocratic nasal drawl as he masters both the lady of the manor and Anna Waldron as the pretty tennis player. Gabriel Kuttner adds intrigue as a maniacal Canadian speed demon in a motor chair and Wayne Fritsche tries with minimal success to corral them all together as the droll inspector.
All the elements converge in the Publick production: ingenious sound (John Doerschuk), ultra-dramatic lighting (Jeff Adelberg), elegant costumes (Molly Trainer) and a luxurious Victorian drawing room (Dahlia Al-Habieli). As the critic pontificates, “élan while avoiding éclat!”