The Game’s Afoot – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

SPOILER ALERT: the butler did not do it! Get set to speed off and running for Ivoryton Playhouse’s current fun offering of Ken Ludwig’s highly entertaining murder, mystery, melodrama, farce and comedy “The Game’s Afoot” until Sunday, November 19. You may find yourself in need of a scorecard as to who is dead, might be dead, is pretending to be dead or who someone wants to be dead. Remember the game of Clue where it could be Colonel Mustard or Miss Plum with a knife or a candlestick, in the kitchen or the drawing room? Here the possibilities are endless.

Daniel Nischan has created a wonderfully detailed set of William Gillette’s castle on the Connecticut River, complete with any number of deadly instruments to commit a felony, lethal and absolute. It has a number of complicated gadgets to record voices and even a bookcase that revolves around to display a bar for liquid refreshments. The famed actor William Gillette is best known, in the 1930’s, for a play he penned about Sherlock Holmes, one he starred in for two decades. He played the astute and clever detective Mr. Holmes, a character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for so long, Gillette somehow believed he had actually mastered the detective’s skills.

Now while taking a bow after a performance as the sleuth at the Palace Theatre in New York, Gillette is shot. The wound is, thankfully, not mortal, but he wants to determine who pulled the trigger. To that end, he has invited the entire cast of the show, all the “suspects,” to his fantastic new home on Christmas Eve to unmask the culprit.

Now he is Sherlock Holmes for real. One by one, or in pairs, the cast members arrive. Felix (Michael Iannucci) and his wife Madge (Katrina Ferguson) who love to bicker and spar with each other, and Simon (Erik Blomquist) and his brand new wife Aggie (Molly Densmore) who are still on a honeymoon of affection. On the scene to greet them is Gillette himself, the impressive personage played by Craig MacDonald and his spry mother Martha, the take charge Maggie McGlone-Jennings. The stage is set, or is it? The unknown catalyst, the one who is going to stir the cauldron, has yet to make an appearance: that deliciously mean and spiteful theater critic Daria Chase, who has burned each of the thespians in turn, played by a wickedly perfect Beverley J. Taylor. The entire cast works wonderfully together to create a perfect blend of suspicion mixed with camaraderie.

Spouting lines of Shakespeare as actors are wont to do, the assembled guests are soon flinging accusations at each other: of jealousy, blackmail, adultery and, especially, of murder. Into this caustic mix ventures a slightly inept policewoman (Victoria Bundonis) who emerges in the middle of a snow storm to try and make sense of this mysterious chaos. Jacqueline Hubbard directs this frantically funny foray that has victims hiding behind every velvet curtain and secret sliding panel. For tickets ($50, seniors $45, students $22, children $17), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street,Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at Performances are Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.,and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

If you love a good mystery and enjoy a jolly comedy, look no further than this delightful marriage of both in Ken Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot.” Now that you know the butler did not do, can you unveil the real culprit? Are you even sure who is the intended victim? You may not even be sure if it’s poison or a gun or a knife.