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The Game’s Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays – The Little Theatre of Alexandria

Jordan Wright
January 20, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times
 

Front Row (L to R) – Aggie Wheeler (Maureen R. Goldman), Daria Chase (Melissa Dunlap), Martha Gillette (Patricia Spencer Smith), and Madge Geisel (Pam Kasenetz).  Back Row (L to R) – Simon Bright (Joe Quinn), William Gillette (John Henderson), Inspector Harriet Goring (Michelle Fletcher), and Felix Geisel (Chuck Leonard) - Photo credit Matt Liptak

Front Row (L to R) – Aggie Wheeler (Maureen R. Goldman), Daria Chase (Melissa Dunlap), Martha Gillette (Patricia Spencer Smith), and Madge Geisel (Pam Kasenetz). Back Row (L to R) – Simon Bright (Joe Quinn), William Gillette (John Henderson), Inspector Harriet Goring (Michelle Fletcher), and Felix Geisel (Chuck Leonard) - Photo credit Matt Liptak

Sherlock Holmes portrayer William Gillette (John Henderson) lives with his dowager mother Martha (Patricia Spencer Smith) in his newly acquired mansion on the Connecticut River near East Haddam, Connecticut.  He is at home nursing a gunshot wound he sustained from an unknown assailant while performing at his Palace Theatre.  It is Christmas Eve and he has invited the cast in his long-running, self-produced play to dine and dish.  Gillette describes his portrayal of Holmes as, “A play about a man of reason who stands up for the cause of justice.” All very high-minded stuff.

Actors-as-actors in a whodunit is playwright Ken Ludwig’s premise in The Game’s Afoot at The Little Theatre of Alexandria.  Now you can always expect high hat hijinks from a Ludwig play, but when the characters are actors you are effectively doubling down.  Gillette’s sophisticated troupe are “Class A” emoters who swan around quoting Shakespeare, Keats, FDR and dozens of writers and notable actors throughout the course of the action.  Add to that tons of snappy repartee, snide asides, glamorous gowns from Costume Designers Jean Schlicting and Kit Sibley, and murder.  Oh yes, there is murder most delicious, and mayhem galore.

Simon Bright (Joe Quinn), Aggie Wheeler (Maureen R. Goldman), William Gillette (John Henderson), Felix Geisel (Chuck Leonard), Madge Geisel (Pam Kasenetz) - Photo credit Matt Liptak

Simon Bright (Joe Quinn), Aggie Wheeler (Maureen R. Goldman), William Gillette (John Henderson), Felix Geisel (Chuck Leonard), Madge Geisel (Pam Kasenetz) - Photo credit Matt Liptak

Simon (Joe Quinn) and Aggie (Maureen R. Goldman) and Felix (Chuck Leonard) and Madge (Pam Kasenetz), two couples who are dinner guests, are shocked when renowned theater critic and columnist Daria Chase (Melissa Dunlap) arrives under the guise of doing a puff piece on Gillette.  “Everyone wants publicity!” she declares.  As Martha describes Daria to her son, “She was ruthless.  She was evil.  She was a theater critic, for God’s sake!”  I’ll admit that was my favorite line of the play and Ludwig’s plum chance to get in a dig.  In one of the most hilarious scenes Daria conducts a séance to intuit the murderer, which only convolutes the entire purpose and draws the others’ motives into question.

William Gillette (John Henderson) and Aggie Wheeler (Maureen R. Goldman) - Photo credit Matt Liptak

William Gillette (John Henderson) and Aggie Wheeler (Maureen R. Goldman) - Photo credit Matt Liptak

Frank Pasqualino directs a crack cast in this tidy comedy filled with outstanding performances by Henderson (absolutely brilliant), Kasenetz, Dunlap and Smith.  Set Designer John Downing draws on the original Gillette castle (Yes, Gillette was a real actor!), using medieval armaments as décor and a clever “magic” door.  How LTA’s compact stage affords the sense of being in a mansion is anathema to everything conceivable about a small theater!  Yet Downing achieves the impossible.  Heads up:  Watch for Michelle Fletcher who enters during a snowstorm to give a scene-stealing performance as Inspector Goring, a star-struck wannabe actor.

Inspector Harriet Goring (Michelle Fletcher) - Photo credit Matt Liptak

Inspector Harriet Goring (Michelle Fletcher) - Photo credit Matt Liptak

Highly recommended for hilarity.

Through February 7th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com

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