Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
A bright new light hit Flint’s theatre scene Thursday evening, and we were privileged to attend the inaugural performance. Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound opened this first season for The Flint Theatre Guild with a full house in the University of Michigan’s intimate Black Box stage. The play is funny, convoluted, exciting and even slightly puzzling when it comes to defining whodunit!
Set in London, it all begins with two theatre critics taking their seats to watch a new mystery play. They seem to have already decided what their review will say even before seeing a moment of the show. Moon (Jason Garza) is filling in for the usual critic and is understandably a bit unsure or nervous in the company of Birdboot (Christopher Dinnan), a seasoned and well-known rival critic. Much of the verbal comedy in this piece evolves from these two as they discuss the show and their own antics relative to the job.
With the play set in the drawing room of Muldoon Manor, a country house far removed from any town, the show begins with Mrs. Drudge, the Help (Marie L. VanHorn) appearing, feather duster in hand, to tidy up. She turns on the radio and hears that there is a murderer on the loose nearby. (The dead body on the floor, which she apparently doesn’t see, could certainly attest to that!) VanHorn is a hoot as she adopts a limp wrist and a slightly domineering posture to play this role. It works well!
Soon a stranger enters and introduces himself as Simon, a friend of Lady Muldoon. George Marzonie is dapper, well dressed and sporty as he balances the affection of both Lady Muldoon (Ella J. McAndrew) and her young friend, Felicity (Samantha Tadajewski). Two women romanced by the same man cannot end well.
McAndrew brings a sense of entitlement to her role even as she laments the disappearance long ago of her husband, and Tadajewski is sweet but also tart as she takes offense at Simon’s sudden decision to drop her and move to her friend. Simon’s role here is slightly confusing. Is he the crazed murderer?
Finally the group is gathered to play a round of cards. They are joined by Magnus (Brian Haggard), a wheelchair-bound, obviously disguised, older fellow who claims to be related to Lady Muldoon’s missing husband.
Later, during a second card game, they hear a howl in the wind signaling the arrival of Inspector Hound (Philip Kautz). He enters dressed for the weather complete with foghorn and boots that he takes off immediately. And finally, it is he who quite literally stumbles upon the dead body on the floor. Odd, but no one noticed it before.
Now the play becomes really complex. We won’t go into all of it – it’s better if you see it for yourself. Suffice it to say that the two critics, Moon and Birdboot, delve much further into the play than they had planned; even to finding the identity of the “body” is someone they both know well! They are hilarious as they are inadvertently immersed into the “reality” of the play. We’re not going to tell you who the ultimate culprit is either – don’t want to spoil the pudding, you know!
Tech crews handle the lights, sound (the phone rings a lot!), very well. Also, the design crew has masterfully made this tiny stage look spacious if only slightly grand. The large paintings of the Muldoons are splendid and definitely keepers!
We do want to offer Director Shelly L. Hoffman a bushel of congratulations on this show and also her incredible accomplishment that is this troupe! We look forward to the rest of the season this summer and to many more entertaining Guild evenings in the future!
The Real Inspector Hound has a short run, so hurry to UM-Flint’s Black Box tonight, Saturday or Sunday (July 12, 13, 14). Get tickets online at FlintTheatreGuild.Eventbrite.com