Also see Fred's review of Candide
Thanks to an encompassing set furnished by designer David Barber, we feel very much situated in Wiltshire, England during a mid-summer evening. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases surround the desk of Andrew Wyke (Charles Shaughnessy) who writes mysteries. Wyke has asked Milo Tindle (Jeremy Bobb) to stop by. The younger man, who wishes to marry Andrew's wife, Marguerite, engages in conversation with Andrew. Andrew reveals that he has a mistress of his own, named Tea. Andrew's scheme bids Milo pilfer some of Andrew's jewels to be sold soon thereafter. In this way, Milo will then have the cash necessary to support Marguerite's lifestyle; further, Andrew will be done with her.
In order to authenticate the "theft," Milo will break into the house. Thanks to costumer Clint Ramos, he does so wearing a silly but appropriate clown disguise. Then, a scuffle is to ensue so that Andrew will have a fully concocted tale when the police come to investigate. Is this a gameor what? Andrew, as the first act moves on, finds a gun which he fires a few times. He eventually aims at Milo who then falls fully down the stairs, tumbling head over heels. The initial hour of the play ends with Andrew evidently feeling quite pleased with himself.
The next portion of the show bears witness to the arrival of an Inspector Doppler. Doppler has heard of Milo's disappearance and seeks information. Aware that the investigator is closing in, Andrew explains that he and Milo were simply enjoying Burglary, a game. Wyke adds that he did shoot Milo but with a blank. Doppler does not buy all of this and soon discovers blood stains on the stairway. Andrew becomes fretful and that, dear reader, does it for the plot. Those who have accurate memories of the script understand twists and turns which highlight the final thirty minutes of the presentation. Others will be delightfully surprised.
The visuals, including precise props and trappings, highlight a perfect atmosphere for the BSC production of Sleuth. Shaughnessy, as Andrew Wyke, is debonair, dapper, and suave. The actor is poised and, during the early proceedings, fittingly self-assured. We need an upper class snob, and Shaughnessy's Andrew, full of himself, fits that description. Bobb, as Milo, is suitably jittery. His presence is strong and the accompanying performance evolving. He builds to a crescendo.
Jesse Berger's fine direction is of great import since proper movement, within the context of this mystery, is essential. The director pushes his actors at the proper moments.
The environs, thanks to David Barber, create specific tone and mood. A large "laughing sailor" (inanimate) stands toward the rear of the stage. A couple of chess sets are obvious. A large clock is in the background. The walls of the living room seem to lean or rake toward the audience as if to encase theater patrons. Even before one word is uttered, Sleuth is a puzzle in waiting. The question is: Will it be solved?
Sleuth continues at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts through August 1st. For ticket information, visit barringtonstageco.org or call the box office at (413) 236-8888.
- Fred Sokol