Olney Theatre Center SleuthBy Genie Baskir • Jun 19th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Olney Theatre Center
Olney Mainstage, Olney, MD
Through July 8th
2:20 with intermission
$26-$49 (+ Fees)
Reviewed June 16th, 2012
Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth is one seemingly long walky, talky exercise in gamesmanship that requires top-notch actors to be effective as good old-fashioned entertainment for everyone. A canny reflection of England in the late 1960’s, early 1970’s, Sleuth is illustrative of the ruling classes’ financial squeeze at the hands of the Labour Government and its social assistance policies dating back to the end of WWII. When Andrew Wyke reminds Milo Tindle that in England property is more important than people, he is lamenting a bygone era when the one percenters skimmed all of the benefits of English society while everyone else worked to the swells’ benefit.
In the hands of Olney Theatre’s Jim Petosa Sleuth smartly reflects that era with contemporaneous musical and stylistic references to James Bond, A Clockwork Orange and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The set is a modern ode to Blenheim Palace and a Georgian sensibility in the Manor House whose squire is Andrew Wyke (Bob Ari), the famous crime detective novelist. Wyke is rich, famous and suffers an unsatisfied craving for something even he can’t name but in which he idly indulges himself because he can. Ari is suitably spoiled and affective as a man with too much time, but not enough money anymore, on his hands. The stockily built Ari is graceful and quick on his feet as he gets increasingly manic as the story advances, but he never electrifies even with his consummate elegance. He lives life as one of his crime detective novels and in his head swirls Strauss’ “Blue Danube Waltz” and Beethoven’s “Pathetique” as he watches his own life from without.
Wyke is interviewing his apparent successor in his wife, Marguerite’s, affections, Milo Tindle (Jeffries Thaiss). In Wyke’s limited social custom, the aspirational Tindle is of insufficient caliber to assume the place of Wyke as his wife’s paramour, being both Jewish and Italian; not to mention his being a somewhat financially challenged tradesman…a travel agent…never appropriate in the constrained societal views of the bourgeoisie. Tindle is effete, greedy, naïve and, best of all, corruptible, as Wyke ensnares him in a plan to defraud both the Inland Revenue and the insurance company by having Milo steal the family jewels.
Thaiss skillfully progresses from naïve to cynical player in Wyke’s literary and fanciful games. He learns to play Wyke as Wyke has played him and he reaps the results in the tragic dénouement. What he does not expect is for Wyke to develop a playful and devilish crush on him because he turns out to be a satisfying playmate in Wyke’s capricious crime games. That is Tindle’s own fault and Thaiss is up to the challenge of developing Tindle into the ultimate gamesman. That he achieves ultimate destruction makes this play a comic and ironic tragedy for both men.
Petosa clearly had a vision of how he wanted his Sleuth to look and sound and he succeeded in presenting a solid, stylish and smart mystery play. The technical direction (Eric Knauss) is immaculate with gunshots, dynamite (Jeffrey Dorfman) and a floor that opens up in places to reveal a safe and costume closet. The bright, white lighting (Daniel MacLean Wagner) lends an opulence to the overall ambience and the scenic design (Cristina Todesco) reflects Wyke’s own exalted opinion of himself. Nicole V. Moody’s costumes amplify the well fed Wyke’s inflated sense of polish and Tindle’s ambitions to wealth.
Olney Theatre Center’s Sleuth is worth the schlep out there. The theatre is comfortable and the production values are superb even for those of us for whom the ending is known and the spoilers non-existent.
Anthony Shaffer’s playful text for Sleuth can be a game that one can choose to play on many levels of proficiency.
Along with the actors and the design team and all artisans involved in creating the production, I have also welcomed two other minds (albeit from the beyond!) to join us.
Some of their words follow:
“There are no other distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.” -Harold Pinter
“You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand tremble to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.” -Stanley Kubrick
Photos by Stan Barouh
- Andrew Wyke: Bob Ari
- Milo Tindle: Jeffries Thaiss
- Inspector Doppler: Seth Fisher
- Detective Sergeant Tarrant: Ryan Hirsch
- Police Constable Higgs: James Tiller
- Director: Jim Petosa
- Production Stage Manager: Josiane M. Lemieux
- Technical Director: Eric Knauss
- Scenic Designer: Cristina Todesco
- Lighting Design: Daniel MacLean Wagner
- Sound Design: Jeffrey Dorfman
- Fight Choreographer: Casey Kaleba
- Costume Design: Nicole V. Moody
Disclaimer: Olney Theatre Center provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8209.
Genie Baskir is a theatrical producer. She worked in radio production and direction for many years and gravitated to theatre when family members became involved with the stage.