The Mimes and Mummers faced a seemingly insurmountable obstacle when the rights to their planned second slot show, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, were revoked less than two weeks before opening. Christie’s family is planning a Broadway revival.
Their ingenious solution was to stage The Real Inspector Hound, Tom Stoppard’s farcical take on The Mousetrap. The show contains many absurdist elements, and overall was a hilarious night of theater.
Mimes staged The Inspector Hound, a farce on an Agatha Christie murder mystery. (Photo by Allegra Howard/The Ram)
The play is framed around two theater critics: Moon, a substitute for the indisposed regular critic, and Birdboot, a ladies man with a keen eye for young actresses. They are watching a production of a murder mystery, in which a madman is on the loose.
In the production, the residents of Lady Muldoon’s country home, particularly the parlor maid, Mrs. Drudge, are following the news on the radio.
Lady Muldoon and her friend Felicity welcome Simon, a mysterious old friend, to the house. They, along with Magnus, Lady Muldoon’s wheelchair-bound brother-in-law, are shaken when Inspector Hound comes to their home to look for clues on the madman. Eventually Moon and Birdboot are sucked into the action, leading to a madcap climax.
Director Evan Tsitsias kept the action flowing at an appropriately brisk pace. Many complications pile up, but the show never felt rushed (impressive for a play that is only 65 minutes). He also made the choice to have the audience seated on stage, which made for the more intimate atmosphere that a show of this type requires.
The set was quite ornate by Mimes standards, but this fit. No murder mystery is complete without a drawing room filled with all manner of furniture and paintings and a grand piano. The show also featured sinister, effective sound effects, inventively deployed by onstage foley artist Pam Zazzarino, FCRH ’14.
The show had a top-drawer cast. The ingenues of the play-within-a-play, Sarah Hill, FCRH ’17 and Laura Hetheringtion, FCRH ’17 (Felicity and Lady Muldoon, respectively) were alternately innocent and sophisticated. Nick Motlenski, FCRH ‘16 was terrific as Magnus, the crippled soldier who is not all he seems to be.
Alexis Jimenez, FCRH ‘16 was hilarious as Mrs. Drudge, who does awful things with her feather duster.
Matthew Conrado, FCRH ’17 was suitably charming as the enigmatic Simon.
Matt Mayer, FCRH ’17 was wonderful as Inspector Hound, who memorably exhibits some characteristics of the animal after which he is named; he and Conrado also took on interesting roles in the show’s climax.
The critics stole the show, however, getting Stoppard’s best lines. Their discussions of their craft were quite amusing, whether or not one is familiar with these types of people.
As Birdboot, Jacob Benoit, FCRH ’17 expertly kept his sharp critical eye, even while falling for Felicity.
Jonathan O’Neill, FCRH ’15, illuminated the critical process while lamenting his station as a runner-up; he had the best monologue of the show, which concludes, “Stand-ins of the world, stand up!”
Despite the short rehearsal time and short running time, The Real Inspector Hound was a fully hilarious evening of murder mystery farce.
The cast reflected on having to change its acting style so quickly once the shows were switched out.
“What’s funny about this weird rehearsal process was that we did a total 180 from play to play,” O’Neill said. “We started with a show that was a very dark, psychological mystery and were suddenly thrust into this really silly farce. The entire cast and crew really rose to the challenge and put on a ridiculous show that we should be ridiculously proud of.”