The Game's Afoot Review - Funny Shades of Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes is certainly popular these days.  Both PBS and CBS have their takes on Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary character and several popular films have been made in the past few years.  And now, Drury Lane in Oak Brook Terrace offers the play The Game’s Afoot written by Ken Ludwig.  The characters are actors in a play about Sherlock Holmes, and his sleuthing ways figure prominently into the plot.  Winner of the “best play” at the 2012 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Awards, this comedic mystery kept me guessing and laughing throughout.

(L-R) Rob Riddle, Tempe Thomas, Kathy Logelin, Angela Ingersoll, Rod Thomas

The action takes place on Christmas Eve at the stately Connecticut home of William Garrett (played by Derek Hasenstab), the lead actor and head of the troop who perform the Sherlock Holmes play in New York written by William himself years ago.  William and his live-in mother Martha (played by Alene Robertson) entertain his actor friends as well as Daria Chase (Angela Ingersoll), theater critic and sometime medium.  William asks Daria to perform a séance to find out who is the murderer of an associate of his theatre for the entertainment of his guests.  After he and another actress/guest dupe the others with a rousing performance, Daria declares that she will ruin William if it’s the last thing she does.  Minutes later, William finds Daria stabbed to death.  When his mother confesses to the crime to save her son’s reputation, William commits to hiding the body with his buddy Felix (wonderfully portrayed by Rod Thomas) and keeping the confession from the arriving Police Inspector Goring (Wendy Robie).  Much of the rest of the play revolves around trying to hide Daria, figuring out who killed her, and learning more about all the characters’ intentions and plans.  Rounding out the cast are Kathy Logelin as Madge Geisel, Felix’s wife, Tempe Thomas as Aggie Wheeler, and Rob Riddle as Simon Bright.

(Background) Alene Robertson, (Foreground) Derek Hasenstab, Kathy Logelin, Rod Thomas

(L-R) Rob Riddle, Kathy Logelin (hidden), Rod Thomas, Tempe Thomas

The pace of this play, both in dialogue and action, is fast.  As most of the characters are actors, there are various quotes from Shakespeare and other plays and over-the-top emoting as befitting their profession.  William Garrett takes on more and more of his character Sherlock Holmes as the play progresses, competing with the Inspector to figure out who killed Daria.   All of the parts were well-acted and funny.  I especially enjoyed William/Derek and Felix/Rod’s hilarious attempts to hide the body from the police.  Alene Robertson’s turn as Martha is fantastic.  Even her facial expressions in the background made me laugh.   Also outstanding is Wendy Robie as the Inspector.  The other performances are pleasing and add to the enjoyment of the extremely funny script.

(L-R) Tempe Thomas, Derek Hasenstab

(L-R) Wendy Robie, Rob Riddle, Tempe Thomas

There is room for improvement going forward from the opening night performance.   The dialogue could be more crisp – I missed a few lines here and there.  At times, a little cheating toward the audience would have helped.  Even though the actors are mic’ed, I still want to see their faces.  That said, the high action scenes could not have been much better.  I could feel their pain as they moved around the dead weight of dead Daria back and forth across the stage.

As for the set design – it is inspired.  The art deco feel of the nineteen thirties made me want to jump in and lay on the couch with the rest of the cast.  The secret room mechanism is cool.  The snowy and forested scenery staged outside the window enhances the mood of isolation and winter.

(L-R) Angela Ingersoll, Rod Thomas

I highly recommend this evening of entertainment. Be prepared to laugh and for the time pass by much too quickly.

The Game’s Afoot is playing at Drury Lane, 100 Drury Lane, Oak Brook Terrace.  For more information and tickets, head to their website.

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