Through Sun 3/8
Author Anthony Shaffer once said of Sleuth, which is now on stage at Great Lakes Theater, that it was “partially inspired by one of his friends, composer Stephen Sondheim, [the master musical theater composer of such works as West Side Story, Company, Gypsy and Follies], who has an intense interest in game-playing.”
And yes, Sleuth is a comic mystery composed of intriguing game-playing. The play, which has had three feature film adaptations, received the 1971 Tony Award for Best Play, as well as the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Play.
The dramatic opening music for the GLT production sets a mood of impending doom. Lightening flashes and an eerie feeling invade the large ornate Tudor mansion set. Yes, there is mystery afoot. (Woo!)
The play is set in the Wiltshire manor house of Andrew Wyke, a successful mystery writer. His home reflects his obsession with inventions and deceptions of fiction and his fascination with games and game-playing.
Wyke lures his wife’s lover, Milo Tindle, to the house and convinces him to stage a robbery of her jewelry while dressed as a clown. (Really, a clown?) Tindle has a misadventure. (Wow!) An inspector arrives to check out a series of supposed noises, which may have been a series of pistol firings. The inspector and Wyke participate in a game of their own.
The play ends with the blue lights of an arriving police cruiser flashing into the windows of the mansion. (Shudder!)
Need more details? (Sorry, no spoiler alerts here to ruin the experience for those who wish to attend!)
The GLT production, under the adept direction of the theater’s artistic director Charles Fee, is compelling in spite of a long first act which contains a great deal of teasing exposition. The twists and turns are well highlighted, as is the humor, especially in the sit-on-the-edge of your seat intriguing second act.
The program indicates there are five characters, with special attention drawn to David Anthony Smith, who gives all the correct attitudes as mystery writer Andrew Wyke, and talented Jeffrey C. Hawkins as Milo Tindle. Lynn Robert Berg, who serves as Text and Accent coach, Nick Steen (Fight Director) and Aled Davies are also highlighted in the cast list.
Gage Williams’ sumptuous three-level authentic set is well-appointed with appropriate prop pieces. Jess Klug adds intrigue with his lighting effects. Josh Schmidt accents scenes with an intriguing sound design. Lee Ernst deserves a separate curtain call for the makeup, as is true to whoever was responsible for creating the laughing puppet. (Hmm…what’s that all about?)
Capsule judgment: Sleuth should be a delight for theater-goers. Go! See! Enjoy! (But don’t tell anyone the secret of the cast, the gun shots or the ending).
Sleuth plays at Great Lakes Theater through Sun 3/8. For tickets call 216-241-6000 or going to greatlakestheater.org/.
[Written by Roy Berko, member: Cleveland Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association]