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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

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 Vreeke—in Heroes, Tom Stoppard's adaptation of a French play—the 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 critics—and, 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 impact—especially Moon, who is ridiculously determined to display his knowledge of psychology, philosophy and theology.

Vreeke—with the invaluable and constant support of Brian S. Allard's lighting design and Steve Baena's sound design—strikes 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.

MetroStage
The Real Inspector Hound
April 20th - May 29th
By Tom Stoppard
Moon: Ralph Cosham
Birdboot: Michael Tolaydo
Mrs. Drudge: Catherine Flye
Simon: Doug Krehbel
Felicity: Kimberly Gilbert
Cynthia: Emily Townley
Magnus: John Dow
Inspector Hound: David Elias
The Corpse (alternating): Bryant Centofanti, Jim Epstein, Larry Levinson, Devin Shadid Directed by John Vreeke
1201 N. Royal St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Ticket Information: 703-548-9044 or www.metrostage.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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