THEATER REVIEW: Shakespeare & Company delivers a hilarious production of The Real Inspector Hound



The Real Inspector Hound
By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Jonathan Croy
(Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, Mass., $12-$48)
A Shakespeare & Company production of a play in two acts
Reviewed by Lesley Ann Beck
[LENOX, Mass.]--An evening at Muldoon Manor, an isolated country house in a rural part of England, includes, just for starters, a love triangle, radio reports of a dangerous madman on the loose, and a succession of corpses in the drawing room. It’s the setting for The Real Inspector Hound, Tom Stoppard’s delightful parody of oh-so-British Agatha Christie-style mysteries, which is being given a spot-on production at Shakespeare & Company, with a stellar ensemble cast and masterful direction by Jonathan Croy.
The Real Inspector Hound is a play-within-a-play, beginning with the self-absorbed theater critic Birdboot, played to perfection by Josh Aaron McCabe, making his way through the audience, interrupting conversations and displacing people, as he ostentatiously takes a front row seat next to another critic, the verbose second-string Moon. Enrico Spada is first-rate as Moon, the put-upon number-two critic who dreams of moving up: “stand-ins of the world, stand up” he says. The two engage in a lengthy conversation as the action at Muldoon Manor begins, and later in the evening, are drawn into the murder mystery in a surprising way.
Meanwhile, Meg O’Connor is wonderful as the sightless housekeeper, Mrs. Drudge, who inspires the first laughs of the evening wielding nothing more dangerous than an old-fashioned feather duster. O’Connor’s comic timing is terrific, even in something as simple as crossing the drawing room to answer the ringing phone, locating the telephone by sound alone.
David Joseph portrays the mysterious Simon Gascoyne, entering through the French doors; his trench coat and slouch hat signal that he’s up to no good, although his performance is very good indeed. Apparently it’s no coincidence that Mrs. Drudge has been listening to radio reports of a murderous madman in the vicinity.
There is a murder mystery in this show, sort of, and Inspector Hound does appear: but this play is all superb comic timing, broad physical comedy, and crackling wit. Croy has crafted a clever, smart, and well-calibrated performance, making the most of a superb cast and delivering laugh after laugh through the evening.
Alexandra Lincoln is just right as the pouty blonde Felicity Cunningham, who comes in wearing her tennis togs and flings herself into Simon Gascoyne’s arms; when she finally scampers off, Dana Harrison as Lady Muldoon comes in and takes her place in a clinch with Gascoyne. Harrison is marvelous as Lady Cynthia Muldoon, the lady of the manor whose husband disappeared years earlier. Harrison is sexy, smart, and funny—very funny—all at the same time.
The cast is completed by Scott Renzoni as the mysterious Magnus, the wheelchair-bound half-brother of the long-lost Lord Albert Muldoon; the slyly funny Renzoni does a very good Scottish accent and is pretty adept at maneuvering his wheelchair, too.
And then there’s the real Inspector Hound, played by Wolfe Coleman who puts across another hilarious performance. His entrance is classic, featuring bright yellow pontoon boots and a helmet bristling with flashlights.
The set hits all the right notes for a typical English country house; but it’s in the magnificent (and humor-inducing) props that designer Patrick Brennan has outdone himself. Govane Lohbauer’s costumes are perfect, too, as is the lighting by Steve Ball. Michael Pfeiffer contributes some excellent moments with a fine sound design.
The story unfolds, full of twists and surprises, and punctuated by absolutely hilarious moments of schtick: the card game is inspired in its wackiness, mannered, crazy, and accompanied by ostentatious alcohol consumption; the hangovers in the morning are most amusing; and blind Mrs. Drudge serving sugar cubes with a pair of silver tongs is an example of the brilliance that keeps the audience laughing.
A trip to Muldoon Manor, in spite of the odd corpse popping up or a case of mistaken identity, is full of wit and whimsy, a truly delightful way to pass an autumn evening.
Costume design, Govane Lohbauer; Set and prop design, Patrick Brennan; Lighting design, Stephen D. Ball; Sound design, Michael Pfeiffer; Stage manager, Nick Busset
(Through November 7; running time is two hours with one intermission)
Lesley Ann Beck is the managing editor of Berkshire Living magazine. She reviews theater and the arts for












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