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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Sleuth at Village Theatre is Vintage Fun,
No Mystery About It!

Sleuth
MJ Sieber and David Pichette
When a mystery play disappears from view for enough years, it's easy to forget the plot twists and surprise ending and, save an ill-advised movie remake a few years ago (seen by few, deservedly), Anthony Shaffer's Tony Award winning Broadway play, expertly directed by Martin (Annie) Charnin at Issaquah's Village Theatre, engages and surprises anew.  Author Shaffer makes numerous jabs at television mysteries being far lesser works than those by the vintage mystery writers of old, and however debatable that may be, Sleuth has aged like a fine wine, especially in the hands of a capable director and corking good cast.

Sleuth takes place in the quirkily outfitted interior of the isolated English country house of venerable, scathingly wealthy mystery writer du jour Andrew Wyke.  His estranged wife Marguerite away, Wyke seizes the opportunity to invite her lover, the younger, less affluent Milo Tindle, for a visit. Pointing out to Milo that his relatively impoverished status will not befit Marguerite's tastes for long, Wyke suggests a staged insurance scam which will set the younger Tindle up quite nicely. From there on in the tale is vintage cat and mouse mystery, with author Shaffer providing considerable droll humor along the way, as just who the cat and who the mouse is keeps changing, amidst the arrival of several colorful local characters. Judging by the frequent gasps and audible comments by the audience, few of the play's mysteries gave themselves away ahead of the clever denouement.  

Casting is key in Sleuth and Charnin happily engaged two of Seattle's best for the all-important principal roles. David Pichette is Andrew Wyke, and possibly has never been better. Using a career full of quirks and mannerisms to perfection, Pichette creates a Wyke who is engaging, insufferable, crafty and even pitiable. A lesser co-star would surely be laid to waste in such company, but younger Seattle stalwart MJ Sieber has his own style and bag of tricks that meshes beautifully with Pichette's.  Watching them spar is like watching an edge-of-your-seat tennis match from Wimbledon, and director Charnin makes sure that match is kept at a brisk and riveting tempo, despite the play's near two and a half hour running time. New to the Village stage, character actors Morrison Dayner and Randy Richard Guss do well enough in essentially cameo roles, and Oliver Joel manages some sublime surprises as the dogged inspector Doppler.

Martin Christoffel's scenic design is a masterpiece of overstuffed glory, just the house you would suspect an eccentric such as Wyke would reside in.  Sleuth deserves to be one of the best received and attended non-musicals in Village Theatre's long history, and I suspect it shall be. The only real mystery? Whether or not you'll be able to score a ticket.

Sleuth runs at the Village Theatre's Issaquah location through February 27, 2011, and then moves to the Everett location March 4th through the 27th.  For tickets or information contact the Issaquah box office at 425-392-2202 or the Everett box office at 425-257-8600 or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.


Photo: Andrew Koh

See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.



- David Edward Hughes



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