Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Real Inspector Hound
Also see Susan's coverage of The 2011 Helen Hayes Awards
The last time MetroStage in Alexandria, Virginia, brought together actors Ralph Cosham, Michael Tolaydo, and John Dow with director John Vreekein Heroes, Tom Stoppard's adaptation of a French playthe theater received the Helen Hayes Awards' Canadian Embassy Award for Outstanding Ensemble, Resident Play. They're all back at MetroStage this spring with another (and superior) Stoppard work, The Real Inspector Hound, and they're better than ever.
Stoppard wrote the play in the early 1960s, but it did not premiere in London until 1968 or in America until 1972. It's a brief (75-minute) trifle that uses a sub-Agatha Christie "isolated country house" mystery to skewer theatrical pretensions and the pomposity of theater criticsand, for that matter, the nature of reality.
In this case, Moon (Ralph Cosham) is a lugubrious second-string critic, working in the shadow of his newspaper's first-string critic, and Birdboot (Michael Tolaydo) is a bumbling, excitable fellow prone to romantic attachments with actresses. They know how little power they wield, yet do their best to maximize their impactespecially Moon, who is ridiculously determined to display his knowledge of psychology, philosophy and theology.
Vreekewith the invaluable and constant support of Brian S. Allard's lighting design and Steve Baena's sound designstrikes every (purposely false) note in the onstage whodunit, from performers facing the audience when they should be talking to each other, to characters turning on the radio just in time to hear a necessary piece of exposition, to the portentous freezes that follow each important line.
Mrs. Drudge (Catherine Flye) natters about and shoots disapproving looks at the other characters; Cynthia (Emily Townley), the imperious lady of the manor, enters from the tennis court wearing a sequined evening dress and high heels; her friend and house guest Felicity (Kimberly Gilbert) glowers with ambition and determination; sleek Simon Gascoyne (Doug Krehbel) is the embodiment of well-dressed insincerity; Magnus (Dow), the ponderous half brother of Cynthia's lost husband, is a font of irrelevant observations; and dogged Inspector Hound (David Elias) shows up at just the right time. And, of course, there's a dead body on the floor from before the beginning of the play.
Daniel Pinha's scenic design ingeniously places Moon and Birdboot at the center of the action: seated in front of a projection of an audience, at the rear of the stage.