Directed by William Osetek
At Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre
Fun filled mystery/comedy garners many laughs as well as some screams all in good fun.
Ken Ludwig’s The Game’s Afoot deftly tries to combine a mystery and a comedy in one clever yet complicated show. Basically, it succeeds despite some hick-ups and some slowness in development early on. Playing on a magnificent country estate set (designed by Kevin Desnet), with terrific sound design by Ray Nardelli with fine lighting by Greg Hofmann, the proper elements are in place for a mystery.
After being shot during a curtain call after a performance of his hit show, Sherlock Holmes, in 1936, Broadway star William Gillette invites his cast to his lavish Connecticut estate for a Christmas Eve party. As in a good mystery, there is the element of bad weather in an isolated location with an inevitable murder to spice thing up. There is a quirky set of characters led by the wacky, too-close -to -her son Martha Gillette, William’s mother (Alene Robertson in her funniest performance in years). The usual suspect, each with a motivate, together with a Louella Parsons type newspaper columnist/theatre critic invited to do an article about William. This group of friends/foes are ripe for some old fashion farce rapped up in a mystery. Indeed, the Game is Afoot as Derek Hasenstab’s Gillette channels Sherlock Holmes, deerskin hat and pipe in hand.
After Daria Chase, the nasty-mouthed critic (Angela Ingersoll) arrives and insults all the guests while trying to seduce several, her fate is sealed as she is stabbed during a blackout from the snow storm. The game becomes in earnest as William and Felix Geisel (Rob Thomas) try to hide the body that never seems to stay where it is put. The revolving mantle/wet bar become a character in the mystery as the two thespians attempt to conceal Chase’s body. After his mother Martha tells him she killed Chase, William is determined to keep his mother from prison. Once the Miss Marple-like police Inspector Goring (the hilarious Wendy Robie) arrives (after a call to the police by William), she lunches the mystery into farcical comedy as the split-second timing garners many laughs as the hapless William and Felix try to hide the body.
The wacky events with ample Shakespearean quotes and madcap movements is both a comedy treat and a fine mystery. Ken Ludwig tries hard to blend the two styles and he takes a tad too long to ties up lose ends but we laugh and enjoy the journey especially by such a terrific cast lead by Hasenstab and Robertson. Purest of the mystery or farce genre may be offended by Ludwig’s smart plotting and nimble characterizations carries the day. Why not have a few laughs while being scared? It’s all in good fun.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: September 4, 2014
For more info checkout The Game’s Afoot page at theatreinchicago.com
At Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook, IL, call 630-530-0111. www.drurylane.com, tickets $40 – $45 – $50, Wednesdays at 1:30 pm, Thursdays at 1:30 & 8 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8:30 pm, Sundays at 2 & 6 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through October 19, 2014