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The Game's Afoot
Asolo Repertory Theatre

Also see Bill's reviews of When The World Was Green and The Amish Project


Carolyn Michel, Bryan Torfeh and
Peggy Roeder

Asolo Rep is presenting master farceur Ken Ludwig's The Game's Afoot in a hilarious production. The play is not a great script, but a frame to hang some great comic acting upon. Like so many of Mr. Ludwig's past successes (Lend Me a Tenor,Moon Over Buffalo) the setting is theatrical, set in real life actor William Gillette's Connecticut mansion. It is a cross between a tight who-dun-it and a farce, and does not represent the best of either genre. There is much clever dialogue including witty Shakespearean references.

The main reason to present The Game's Afoot is Asolo's ability to field great casts for this kind of plays. Bryan Torfeh makes a welcome return, after too long away, in the role of William Gillette. Mr. Torfeh has been seen in the past to great acclaim in such repertoire as The Play's the Thing and Amadeus. His prowess at physical comedy is amazing. A scene in which he and Gail Rastorfer dance around the playing area so that he remains completely unaware that she literally has a knife stuck in her back is a hilarious. As Daria Chase, gossip columnist and disliked by everyone else, Ms. Rastorfer gives a performance in the first act that is blazingly over the top. Spoiler alert: In the second act, as a dead body she is even better. Eric Hissom and Elizabeth King-Hall as Felix and Madge Geisel are both superbly funny. I could expect it from Mr. Hissom having seen him play comedy before, Ms. King-Hall's ability to play comedy is a delightful surprise after her fine dramatic performance in The Heidi Chronicles. Brittany Proia and Joseph McGranaghan as Aggie Wheeler and Simon Bright (actually Mr. and Mrs. Simon Bright, now) continue their winning ways after fine performances in You Can't Take it With You and other shows earlier in the season. Both are third year students at Asolo Acting Conservatory and show great promise for the future. Peggy Roeder, also featured in You Can't Take it With You, splits the daffy quota in half as Gillette's mother, sharing with Carolyn Michel who contributes yet another in her long list of delightfully daft damsels as Inspector Goring. I wish I could bottle her so that I need never suffer withdrawal from her comedic charms. One minor quibble: at the performance I attended, the prologue, which shows Gillette's troupe in a performance of Sherlock Holmes, and the first few minutes of the actual play were a little unfocused as the actors found their rhythms.

Actors can not be at their best without assistance from a great director; here it is Greg Leaming, head of Asolo Acting Conservatory. He has a masterful hand with comedy. This production also brings out the very best from the Asolo's great technical team. The set design by Judy Gailen is striking in its detail and richness, evoking striking luxuriousness. Costume Design by Eduardo Sicangco is amazing. A traveling ensemble for Daria's arrival is stunning in its period authenticity, including fur trimmed jacket. Later, the jacket is removed to reveal a bolero bodice underneath. Equally stunning costumes for William Gillette, Mr. and Mrs. Geisel and Martha Gillette make for a visually stunning evening. All of the other technical elements work in harmony to enrich the production.

As a play The Game's Afoot may or may not be worthy of inclusion in a season with the lofty ambition to examine "the American Character, Our Lives On Stage" but it makes for a fun evening at Asolo Rep.

Asolo Repertory Theater presentsThe Game's Afoot through May 12, 2013, at the Mertz Theater in the FSU Center, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Box Office (941) 351-8000. For more information visit www.asolorep.org.

Cast (In Order of Appearance)
William Gillette--Bryan Torfeh*
Felix Geisel--Eric Hissom*
Aggie Wheeler--Brittany Proia*
Madge Geisel--Elizabeth King-Hall*
Simon Bright--Joseph McGranaghan
Radio Announcer--Jacob Cooper
Martha Gillette--Peggy Roeder*
Daria Chase--Gail Rastorfer*
Inspector Goring--Carolyn Michel*

Director--Greg Leaming
Set Design--Judy Gailen
Costume Design--Eduardo Sicangco
Lighting Design--Mary Louise Geiger
Sound Design--Fabian Obispo
Fight Director--Robert Westley
Voice & Dialect Coach--Patricia Delorey
Resident Hair/Wig & Make-up Design--Michelle Hart
Resident Production Stage Manager--Kelly A. Borgia*

*Member of Actor's Equity Association


Photo: Photo Credit: Barbara Banks, Asolo Rep

--William S. Oser



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