Directed by William Pullinsi
At the Theatre at the Center, Munster, IN
“Shaffer said the play was partially inspired by one of his friends, composer Stephen Sondheim, whose intense interest in games-playing is mirrored by the character of Wyke.”
Awesome action and clever script make Sleuth a mysterious treat!
Suspense masterpieces are difficult to mount live on stage but in the hands of two truly “great” actors (Larry Yando and Lance Baker) with the aid of director Bill Pullinsi, Sleuth plays as a top-class thriller. Rick and Jackie Penrod’s two level set aptly depicts an English country manor and Libby Fandrei’s impressive props fuel the thriller. But Shaffer’s script is both a terrific mystery and a spoof of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers mysteries. Shaffer mercilessly satirizes the genre while at the same time using its technical devices to spark the suspense.
We meet Andrew Wyke (Larry Yando), an eccentric British mystery author and avid game-player whose fictional detective, St. John Merridew has allowed him to amass significant wealth. But the recluse writer cherishes the art of the game as his most stimulating endeavor. He invites his wife’s lover to his country estate. Milo Tindle (Lance Baker) is a timid London travel agent who is uncomfortable visiting Wyke but apparently Wyke both understands and welcomes loosing his wife to Milo. His only concern is can Milo afford to keep his wife in the luxury she is accustom to?
Wyke’s solution involves a strange plan: having Milos fake a burglary to “steal” his wife’s jewels to sell them for 90,000 Quid. Wyke has all the pitfalls in the plan solved minimizing the risk to both. The game begins and the twists and turns unfolds like a clever epic cat-and-mouse game. Once Milo is into the games, he quickly becomes an avid player adding much to the tangled web of intrigue. There are so many twists that we quickly realize that nothing is quite as it seems.
Several elements merge to make Sleuth an ‘edge-of-your seat’ thriller.” First Larry Yando’s impeccable portrait of the wily provocative mystery writer that establishes Wyke’s wit, peculiarities and obsession with plots and games early on sets the tone. Yando rules the stage with his elocution, unique movement and devious persona. Second, Lance Baker’s understated, deadpan reaction to Yando’s eccentricities produces the elements for suspense. Baker plays off Yando’s lead effectively. Thirdly, the amazing set and the intricate props become ‘players’ in the mysterious game.
The two hour mystery is a tour de force for both Larrt Yando and Lance Baker. Without their acting skills and stage instincts, Sleuth would not be able to attain and sustain the suspense necessary to satisfy our curiosity. You’ll become engaged as you wonder what will happen next. Those who have seen Sleuth the film or on stage will still enjoy Yando and Baker’s performance while newbies will be pleasantly shocked by Sleuth. Either way, their sheer effort make the gamesmanship worthy. You’ll see two of the finest actors at the top of their art. Don’t miss this rare treat.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: February 20, 2011
For full show information, check out the Sleuth page at Theatre In Chicago.
At the Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN, Call 219-836-3255, www.theatreatthecenter.com, tickets $36 – $40, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 2 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30, select Thursday evenings and Saturday matinees, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission,through March 20, 2011