The incandescent Tom Stoppard is being given his due at Home Made Theater this month.
‘The Real Inspector Hound’ and ‘The Fifteen-Minute Hamlet’
WHERE: The Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: through Feb. 24
HOW MUCH: $22 and $19
MORE INFO: 587-4427
The production of two of his one-act plays must go down as some of the most hilarious theater of this or any season. It’s just too funny for words! But I have “Words, words, words,” as Hamlet tells Polonius, and they are all in praise of this excellent production.
Director Terry Rabine has shepherded his fine cast through the farcical world of “The Real Inspector Hound” with a deft and deliberate hand. He knows what’s funny and he uses his knowledge expertly, down to the perfectly injected single finger salute of one of the characters, as he defies theatrical covenant and breaks the fourth wall.
The central conceit of the play is that two critics, Moon (JJ Buechner) and Birdboot (Stephen Davis) have come to the theater to review a play. It is a very bad play — a murder mystery with all the classic conventions; an isolated manor house on the Scottish moors, swamps and, naturally, fog. “The author,” says one critic pompously as he writes his review on the spot, “has taken the trouble to learn from the masters of the genre.” In truth, Stoppard has done just that in this masterfully written spoof.
The play opens with the radio blaring a police report about a “dangerous madman” who is terrorizing the countryside. As Simon Gascoyne (Chris Cook) appears mysteriously in the drawing room, the announcer tells his audience that the madman is “youngish,” of medium height and build, and dressed in a “darkish” suit and a “lightish” shirt. It is a perfect description of Gascoyne, and Cook plays it for all it is worth. Winnie Bowen, who is as versatile an actor as ever stepped foot on a stage, plays Mrs. Drudge, the manor’s forbearing housekeeper. Her turns, as red-herrings fly and threats of murder and mayhem abound, are perfectly timed. Sari Bobbin, as Lady Muldoon, vamps her part with comic skill. Phil Sheehan, Clare Daly and Ron DeLucia round out this accomplished cast.
Chaotic little pastiche
“The Fifteen-Minute Hamlet” is a chaotic little pastiche that summarizes Shakespeare’s tragedy in three stages; a twelve-minute “Hamlet,” a two-minute “Hamlet,” and a one-minute “Hamlet.” The cast, doubling and tripling roles, gives each character definition even as they parody them. The only actor not held over from “The Real Inspector Hound” is Lauren Cognato as Ophelia. Her ear-splitting screams and increasingly hilarious death scenes are great fun even if you happen to be a Shakespeare purist.
The production values supporting this show are impeccable. Scenic design (Dale Conklin) provides a set that is seamlessly transformed from a manor house into a castle. Much praise must be given to assistant director and production stage manager Jen Rathner and her team, which handles the transformation with precision.