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Last weekend for criminally good theatre

April 10, 2014

Are you ready for a little mystery?

Allison McDonnell Page masterfully directs Anthony Shaffer’s classic, Sleuth, with a modern flare. Although the play is based in 1970, quick dry wit and lots of suspenseful twists will keep the audience engaged in the Edison Theatre’s current production.

Sleuthis very different from the other shows Page has directed in the past. Instead of tense family drama like Proofor August: Osage County, she takes her turn at a comedy full of puzzles and lies.

The stage is action packed, and the lead actors achieve what Page set out for them to accomplish in Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theatre’s last production of the season.

Rick Phelps plays Andrew Wyke, an avid game player and mystery novelist who is finishing up his latest thriller, “The Body on the Tennis Court” when his wife’s lover, Milo, shows up at the door.

“I understand you want to marry my wife,” Wyke casually remarks to Milo. While the audience appears shocked, Milo—played by Kevin Green—seems to anticipate this. Instead of running for the door, Milo steps willingly into Wyke’s web of deception and game playing.

After vetting Milo for his wife’s hand in marriage, Wyke decides to help him out: he has devised a plot where Milo will rob his house in order to pay for the wife’s expensive tastes.

At first glance, you may ask yourself  why anyone would help his or her spouse’s lover? The play tells us that Wyke is tired of his wife, and recently fell madly in lust with his mistress. Plus his wife is expensive, remember?

The most important rule to remember as a Sleuthaudience member is that everyone lies. Even the program cannot be trusted.

And British detective mysteries are not always full of pipe-smoking private eyes and lengthy monologues—--they can be an adventure you willingly jump into. Sleuthis complex without being obtuse.

The audience is constantly left to discover the truth behind Wyke and Milo’s deceptions. Where too many twists can leave an audience with a headache, Sleuthinterweaves jokes and physical humor to keep you sane.

The entire story takes place in the simplistic living room of Andrew Wyke. Designed by Karrah Spitznagel, its modest-yet-cluttered look is what you might expect to see on a 1980s BBC set: a bar-cart to the side, leather-bound novels on the shelves; the only thing missing is a cigar still smoking next to the typewriter.

Phelps’ character, Wyke, has it decorated with mystery paraphernalia, evidence of his obsession with games and detective fiction, which doesn’t provide a clue for the melodrama observed in two acts.

Sleuthhas been performed all over the world, in several different variations including two different movies. It is the most requested work by theaters in Shaffer’s repertoire. It’s a classic, not because of important lessons or for what it may say about society, but because it produces a lively time for the audience, keeping them at the edge of their seats.

Green and Phelps are fantastic— they obviously love the show they are in—and it comes through in their performance, both giving breakout energy and keeping the audience wanting more.

Green plays his role in this cat and mouse chase with earnest believability and eccentric physicality. Even when the story pulls Milo into crazy situations, Green performs realistically. Not new to comedy, Green was previously seen in last summer’s comedic Shakespeare production.

Spitznagel not only designed a great set, but is responsible for stage management and the lighting design as well. Costumes and props were produced by Pam Bartley, special effects makeup is done by Crystal Nardico, and Lazarus is responsible for general makeup design.

Sleuth runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m., until April 13 at the Edison Theatre, 100 College Parkway. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 students and seniors, $12 for children. Keep in mind this play is recommended for ages 13 and older. For more information, visit www.EdisonTheatre.org.For reservations, call 760-934-6592.

Rick Phelps, Kevin Green. Photo/Submitted
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