THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND
At 1802 W. Bernice
Written by Tom Stoppard
Directed by Ronan Marra
Thru September 18th
Running Time: 75 minutes no intermission
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
‘Where’s Chris Jones?’ Chicago Tribune’s Nina Metz is undoubtedly asked that question a lot. Signal Ensemble Theatre presents THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND, a prophesying 1968 comedy about death and theatre critics and the death of theatre critics. Moon (aka Metz) is reviewing a play. The first question from fellow critic, Birdboot (aka Hedy Weiss), is ‘where is Higgs (aka Jones)?’ Moon laments about his entire existence hinging on the absence of Higgs. Simultaneously, Birdboot justifies his long-standing passionate affair with theatre… or more succinctly, his ongoing lustful trysts with actresses. While these critics critique their personal lives, a who-done-it murder mystery unfolds stageleft in an over-the-top farce. In between self absorption, the semi-conscious critics predict the action. In a surprising twist, the reviewers engage in the action by becoming characters. THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND is a play within a play being reviewed within this review.
As far as mystery murder satires go, THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND is an Agatha Christie novel super-sized. A storm approaches a remote home as a killer is on the loose. Under the direction of Ronan Marra, the cast exacerbate dramatic pauses and phone slams for murder mockery. Mary O’Dowd (Mrs. Drudge) is the white-faced, creepy know-it-all maid. A love triangle is played out hilariously in a card game between Meredith Bell Alvarez (Cynthia), John Blick (Simon) and Katie Genualdi (Felicity). Defining physical comedy a little sluttier than most, Alvarez goes full-on-skank by making out with most of the cast…with her mouth open. Blick is animatedly charming as THE handsome stranger/ killer/victim. Genualdi is amusing feigning agony as the scorned discarded lover. Playing the pretentious stereotypes of critics, Philip Winston (Moon) and Jon Steinhagen (Birdboot) are droll as bumbling theatre authorities. Winston is sarcastic wit with a chip on his shoulder and a flask in his pocket. Steinhagen transforms from unapologetic philanderer to schoolboy crush by climbing out of the box. Colby Sellers (Magnus) is a hot wheeling mysterious character that rolls over for the big reveal at the end.
Playwright Tom Stoppard penned this murder mystery comedy that imagines theatre reviewers becoming part of the plot. The silly premise is an absurd nod out to the mystery novel genre mingled with a playwright’s dark fantasy. SPOILER ALERT: It’s the agathized ‘then there were none’ theatre critics. In the final scene, the more formal critics have been replaced by casually dressed bloggers who are focused on interpreting the play in between bites of Pringles. The spoof is a bizarre comedy best suited to theatre lovers of the satirical and theatre haters of the critics. Ultimately, THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND is definitely more deathly funny to bloggers than theatre critics.
Production photos courtesy of Johnny Knight.