Sherlock Holmes is hot right now—you have the BBC version, the CBS version, and even the big-screen Robert Downey Jr. version. And onstage at Home Made Theater, you have Ken Ludwig’s version—well, version of a version, to be more precise.
William Gillette (Brian Avery), world-renowned for portraying Holmes onstage, is shot at a curtain call. Two weeks later, he invites his four cast mates to his home for Christmas Eve, but he has something other than holiday revels on his mind—he wants to solve, Sherlock-style, who shot him. Throw in his dotty mother, a theater critic everyone has reason to hate (the show is not kind toward critics . . . luckily, I’m thick-skinned) and an inspector who always gets her man—eventually—and the show takes many twists and turns as everyone tries to solve the mystery, and the number of new mysteries that keep popping up, before anyone else is a target.
Ludwig’s work has always been hit-or-miss for me; I’m not a slapstick fan, and sometimes he uses it so heavy-handedly his plays are almost impossible to watch. I was, however, so pleased with The Game’s Afoot. Yes, there was slapstick, but there was an actual plot in the show, and the slapstick made sense within the confines of said plot; it’s much easier to laugh when there’s a reason for the action other than just “let’s have people fall down here to get some chuckles from the audience.”
There wasn’t a single weak link in this cast. Everyone had both excellent acting talent and impeccable comedic timing. Special kudos go out to Avery, Ron De Lucia as Felix and Sara Paupini as Daria in one very long, very physical scene which I won’t spoil—but I will say that Paupini deserves a standing ovation for the trust she has in her fellow actors and how many bruises she no doubt has after each performance alone. It wasn’t just this scene in which Paupini stood out; she vamped it up admirably in her time onstage in a gorgeous scarlet gown as the nefarious critic. Her scenes were electric. Mary Ellen Dowling, as Martha Gillette, William’s mother, was also a joy to watch; she played a sweet woman with a hidden steel backbone with verve and style (and got a lot of laughs, as well).
The set (as all sets tend to be at HMT) was gorgeous; I honestly gasped at one of the surprises that was revealed. Good stage design is one of my weaknesses, and Kevin Miller did an amazing job putting us right in the middle of a mid-’30s mansion.
A show with this much going on is not easy to keep running smoothly, and director Michael McDermott obviously had everything perfectly under control. From lighting to sound to the set to the actors, there wasn’t a single thing not accounted for. It’s theater at its finest, and you have until the 26th to see it for yourself—I highly recommend that you do so.
The Game’s Afoot, Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Springs, through Feb. 26.
Photo by SaratogaPhotographer.com