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Murder and Mayhem At MetroStage With The Real Inspector Hound

Jordan Wright
Special to The Alexandria Times
April 25, 2011

The Real Inspector Hound at MetroStage - photo credit Michael Bailey

The Real Inspector Hound at MetroStage - photo credit Michael Bailey

Each time I attend a new MetroStage production I am in high anticipation for an exciting evening of theatre.  In most cases I expect a musical.  And whether a frothy delight or a serious biography, it never fails to thrill.  “Every so often we throw in a mystery,” explains Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin.  And this one’s a doozy.  Tom Stoppard’s absurdist play-within-a-play, “The Real Inspector Hound”, is a quirky, kitschy parody of the stereotypical English parlor mystery.  If you want it played straight and neat, stick with Agatha Christie.

The plot opens at a theatre where two critics hash out their reviews and boast about their past successes.  “Did you see my review in neon?” asks Birdboot, an over-the-hill roué whose predilection for ingénues has him salivating after the play’s leading ladies.  His cohort, the pompous Moon, “a fellow toiler in the greasepaint”, is more concerned with the play’s analytics and his fellow competitors.  “Elan without éclat” he suggests describing a play he reviewed.  Birdboot trumps the prissy Moon by whipping out a viewfinder stocked with transparencies of his marqueed quote.

But, hold on, there is a dead body onstage…its head jutting out from the cherry red Victorian settee.  It’s been there all along though only the audience is aware of it.  A quick flip through the Playbill reveals that four actors are scheduled to “perform” this role on an alternating basis with only one corpse (perhaps I should say actor) per performance.  It must be exhausting to play dead.  It’s almost unimaginable to conceive of lying stark still for the length of the play, not to mention without chuckling, throat clearing or reacting to the hilarious exchanges of your fellow cast members as they whirl madly past you.  A quick check every now and again confirmed that the “corpse” did not move an inch, even when accidentally run over by Major Magnus making his wheelchair entrance.  Touché to stoicism!

The action is centered at Muldoon Manor in the foggy marshes of Essex, England where Lady Cynthia, played magnetically by the voluptuous Emily Townley, is entertaining her eccentric guests.  A murder has been committed in the nearby hamlet and the local gendarmes are hard on the heels of the perpetrator.  The whodunit involves a dashing cad, Simon Gascoyne; the eccentric, crippled brother-in-law, Major Magnus Muldoon; the adorably clingy ingénue, Felicity Cunningham; the haunted parlor maid, Mrs. Drudge; and of course the natty Inspector Hound.

Could it be Magnus, “I think I’ll go and oil my guns”, or Simon afraid his past loves are catching up with him?  Perhaps Felicity has revenge on her pretty little mind?  You’ll have mere seconds to deduce the answer when the characters occasionally go into melodramatic freeze-frame mode.

The “tittle tattle” of the critics becomes the backdrop to the unfolding mystery as they try to discern the killer while critiquing the play and musing on their middle aged fantasies…until the otherworldly moment when they are drawn into the plot.

This production is so fast-paced that you should pull your bowler down firmly before entering the theatre lest it blow off in a storm of bon mots.  With a crack cast and a dizzying plot, it’s another winner for MetroStage.

At MetroStage 1201 North Royal Street in Alexandria through May 29th.  For tickets and information visit

1 comment to Murder and Mayhem At MetroStage With The Real Inspector Hound

  • You can definitely see your enthusiasm within the work you write. The sector hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. All the time go after your heart.

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