The Game’s Afoot @ Kirkwood Theatre Guild

The Kirkwood Theater Guild has scored a notable
success with its current production of Ken Ludwig’s recent comedy, “The Game’s
Afoot.” Devotees of Sherlock Holmes will immediately
recognize the play’s title as a catchphrase spoken by their idol. The comedy from 2011 is not, however, about
the master detective. The main character is William Gillette, the
American actor, who wrote a play about Sherlock Holmes in 1899 and made a fortune starring
as Holmes for decades. Ludwig’s play begins with the ending of
Gillette’s on a December night in 1936. A gunshot from the audience wounds Gillette
during the curtain call. The next scene takes place in the recuperating
Gillette’s palatial home on the Connecticut River. He has asked the cast of his play to celebrate
Christmas Eve at the mansion, but this gathering has ulterior motive. Gillette has a plan to solve the mystery of
his shooting. To this end, Gillette has invited an additional
guest, the theater critic, Daria Chase. Her reviews have rankled some of the other
guests, but Daria has a special skill Gillette needs to carry out his plan. No crimes have been solved by intermission,
but another one has been committed. What ensues is as much a murder farce as a
murder mystery. As we know from “Lend Me a Tenor,” Ludwig
is very good at farce. So is the Kirkwood production, which has a
strong cast. Jeff Kargus fills Gillette with the self-importance
of a man whose mind has blurred the distinction between himself and the role that defined
his career. Jackie Goodall skirts the line between balanced
and bonkers as Gillette’s mother, whose devotion to her son impels her along a dangerous
course. Tim Callahan as Felix Geisel and Heather Sartin
as Madge Geisel mine the comic possibilities of a long-married theatrical couple with plenty
of built-up resentments. Hannah Lindsey as Aggie Wheeler and Robert
Michael Hanson as Simon Bright play a recently married theatrical couple. Their love blossomed when he was comforting
her after the death of her previous, very wealthy husband. Lindsey and Wheeler raise just the right amount
of suspicion about their characters. Annalise Webb has great fun with the caustic
wit of Daria, the critic. Laura Kyro captures both the serious and humorous
elements in Inspector Goring, the detective in the second act. The production benefits from admirable technical
work in Kevin Hester’s direction, Robert Michael Hanson’s set, Judi Lowe set decoration,
Deanna Garcia props, Cherol Bowman Thibaut’s costumes, JT Taylor’s lighting, JD Wade’s
sound design, and Bob Thibaut’s fight choreography. You missed this one, Bob, but I expect you’ll
have another chance to see “The Game’s Afoot” in the future.

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