Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Real Inspector Hound
Fusion Theatre Company
Review by Dean Yannias

Also see Deans recent review of Deathtrap

William Sterchi and Zane Barker
Photo Courtesy of Fusion Theatre Company
Tom Stoppard hit it big in 1966 with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a play about two minor characters who spend most of their time offstage in Hamlet but eventually become the leads in their own play. Two years later, Stoppard followed it up with another play about two characters who spend most of their time offstage but eventually become the leads in the play they are watching. In The Real Inspector Hound, currently being presented at Fusion Theatre Company, the two offstage characters are theater critics, and they are reviewing an awful production of a play that bears more than a passing resemblance to Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. Coincidental or not, The Mousetrap is the name of the play-within-the-play in Hamlet. Meta enough for you?

Stoppard at times can be a little off-putting, like a dinner guest who always has to demonstrate that he's the smartest guy in the room. His hyper-literacy sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. Arcadia is brilliant; Jumpers is tripe. I remember finding Rosencrantz and Guildenstern tiresome, but Inspector Hound is just right. A one-act clocking in at 70 minutes and funny all the way through, it's a satisfying dose of early Stoppard, with little of the ostentation you find in some of his work.

The two critics have odd names. Moon is a second-string critic filling in for Higgs, the main critic who has apparently disappeared. Moon spends a lot of time talking about how he wishes Higgs were gone so that he could move up the ladder to the top spot. He even has dreamt about killing Higgs–but was it just a dream? By the same token, he wonders if the third-line critic dreams of killing him.

Birdboot, on the other hand, is a critic for one reason only: to give a rave review to whatever hot young actress he has his eye on so that he can get her into bed. He constantly protests that he's a happily married man, but we know how that goes.

One of the funniest things in Inspector Hound is the review that Moon is writing as the play he is watching proceeds. It's so misguidedly analytical that it ends up having nothing to do with the incredibly mediocre play on stage. He says it reminds him of Pirandello and Dante and several other heavyweights, and ultimately it's about God, yes God! Huh? Stoppard has written a pitch-perfect parody of those reviewers whose reviews are more about showing off than about the work they are supposed to be reviewing.

As for the play they are watching, it's also a spot-on parody of the English manor house murder mystery. The script and the acting are supposed to be atrocious, which gives the talented Fusion cast the opportunity to overact like crazy. And they do, to great comic effect.

Laurie Thomas, Jacqueline Reid, Rhiannon Frazier, William Sterchi, and David Sinkus (unrecognizable until the last scene) all seem to be getting a kick out of being unconstrained by good taste. Danyal Budare plays it a little too straight; he could have been much more melodramatic. Matt Heath is always a joy to watch in a comic role, and his Birdboot is a delight. Zane Barker as Moon, the serious reviewer, does a fine job delivering his absurdly intellectual lines, and his befuddlement at the end is palpable.

The excellent set and lighting are by Richard Hogle. I always feel like I want to move into his sets at Fusion. Robyn Phillips has come up with wonderful props, as always. The sound design by Chad Scheer adds to the fun, especially the sound of a wheelchair going down three flights of stairs. The whole shebang was directed by Robb Anthony Sisneros, who knows how to do comedy as it should be done.

The Real Inspector Hound runs through November 20, 2022, at Fusion Theatre Company, 700 First Street NW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Thursdays through Sundays. For information and tickets, please visit