I arrived dressed up in a scarf and heels; still, that wasn't nearly dressed up enough to blend in with the full house of silver-haired matrons and their sweater-wearing hubbies three times my age. No, I wasn't planning on meeting my grandmother here. I came because I enjoy theater. (Besides, I enjoy being complacently out of place: Things of that sort began when my 16-year-old self showed up in go-go boots to a B-52's concert.)
I spend the majority of my year at Ohio University, where I recently reviewed the student production of Eurydice. But while I've spent plenty of time on Playhouse Square, this was my first stop at the renovated Allen Theatre. I think of the different theaters in the district as a family: They’re all of the same era, yet each has it's own personality. Experiencing the Allen’s unique charm — a good-looking blend of classic and contemporary design — was like discovering the district's long-lost brother. Among the high points: a fabulous mirrored lobby, a grand rotunda, and a moderately sized theater with great intimacy.
As for the performance, The Game’s Afoot seemed to be an instant hit with the audience. While I thought it leaned heavily on British humor and period pieces, the plot, set in the 1930s, also reminded me a lot of a slapstick blend of Sherlock Holmes and Airplane! The murder at the heart of the plot did not subtract from the play’s holiday spirit: the Cruella De Vil-esque murder victim was such an unlikeable character, I wish I had done it myself!
The show stood out for two reasons: its magnificent set and talented cast. The audience audibly gasped at the initial unveiling of the set: the great room of a mesmerizing Connecticut castle equipped with a secret room, hidden recording devices, and a soaring ceiling modeled after the real-life home of actor William Gillette (the historic actor who famously played Holmes on the New York stage).
My favorite characters were three ladies. I found the feisty wife Maude Geisel (Lise Bruneau), vindictive columnist Daria Chase (Erika Rolfsrud), and the funny matron Martha Gillette (Patricia Kilgarriff) especially entertaining.
While the play is burdened by an unmemorable name, these characters possessed memorable pizazz. Despite moments of campy dialogue, the cast kept me laughing until the final scene. Between the irony, the slapstick, and the sexual innuendo, the play contains enough humor to tickle anyone’s funny bone. — Jackie Bon