Bob Goepfert Reviews Curtain Call Theatre's Production Of "Sleuth"
LATHAM – There are few things in theater more satisfying than a mystery. The good ones keep you engrossed as you try to match wits with the playwright as each new twist and turn leads you down a confusing labyrinth of mystery. The very best usually have plenty of humor to keep things light.
Using this definition, ‘Sleuth,” playing at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham through February 6, is among the best of all modern mysteries. There are no red herrings, no new evidence is introduced in the second act to alter the logic of the piece and no guilt-ridden character suddenly confesses to the crime that they were unlikely to commit in the first place.
Yes there is a detective that we don’t meet until act two, but he’s methodical and workman-like. Don’t expect from him great intuitive insights or cleverness like you get from people like Monk, Colombo or even Miss Marple. However throughout the play you do get the life’s blood of mysteries - deceit and treachery.
A wealthy writer of detective stories, Andrew Wyke invites the young man Milo Tindle to his home to offer him a deal he cannot refuse. Milo is having an affair with the older man’s wife. Andrew would like to see Milo marry the wife to be rid of her expensive habits, but she is accustomed to the good life and Milo’s poverty might ruin the new relationship and send her back to Andrew. Using his writer’s imagination Andrew hatches a foolproof but criminal plan in which both men might get what they want.
The idea that one of the men will betray the other is a given. How retribution is offered for the betrayal is the tantalizing part of the puzzle. The beauty of the piece comes from startling surprises and by ratcheting up of the danger throughout the play.
One of the inherent problems with mysteries is the amount of exposition that must be offered at the beginning. Director Steve Fletcher and his two leads, Steven Leifer (Andrew) and Woodrow Proctor (Milo) overcome this with immediate and engaging portrayals. They hook you and bring you into their world within minutes.
Thankfully they enlarge on their wonderful first impressions as the play goes on. Throughout Leifer is delicious as the pompously arrogant writer who is condescending to all whom he considers his intellectual inferior – which is everyone. Proctor is a chameleon changing personalities as the situation and mood demand. Together they are fantastic playing comic to the others straight man or victim to the other’s bullying. The two men are so good they make the supporting cast virtually invisible.
“Sleuth” is a technically demanding show. Here too expectations are met and exceeded. The set designed by Andy Nice initially seems too psychedelic, but as the show evolves it works to magnify the confusion of the characters. Costumes by Sherry Recinella are appropriate for character, time period and personalities. A subtle but important contribution is made by Alex Dietz-Kest’s sound design which builds suspense, drama – and even terror.
If you go – and you should – don’t become overconfident. There are times a solution seems obvious, or a disguise doesn’t work. You might be certain you’ve figured out the mystery and know the conclusion. You probably will be wrong.
“Sleuth” at Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Road, Latham Thursdays-Sundays 877-7529
Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.
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