Review: The Real Inspector Hound at the Main Street Theater

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Editor’s Note 7.21.22: Main Street Theater has extended the run for The Real Inspector Hound.

Although playwright Tom Stoppard once said that The Real Inspector Hound not talking about theater reviews, it’s hard to believe. He pulls our leg. He is a master in this field.

Of course, this meta-prank is about critics and how they perceive what they’re being paid for; how they want their words to count, even if the coin is worthless; how some use their professional influence to advance in the bedroom; how some want to advance to the newspaper because they think they are entitled to it. And that’s where we find our two critics – in the theater looking at a banal and rudimentary who-done-it, à la Agatha Christie.

There’s a corpse on the floor behind the sofa. Nobody notices. The maid, Mrs. Drudge (Michelle Britton), sweeping the carpet, rolls the couch over the body to clean the carpet, hiding it from view.

Critics Moon (John Feltch) and Birdboot (Paul Hope) – very existential versions of Waldorf and Statler from The Muppet Show – somewhat distracted and writing their reviews as the play progresses, soliloquizing about their lives while taking marks. They talk to each other as the mystery of the murder in the secluded mansion continues.

Moon is the pompous dreamer, hating his job as a second-tier critic, replacing Higgs, the newspaper’s star critic, at the last minute. It makes no sense, he mused, “I guess I have to wait for Higgs to die…I’m half afraid I’ll disappear when he does.” To prove its worth, he over-analyzes the light-hearted play, infusing it with intense meaning and significance, comparing it to Sartre, Kafka, Dante, Shakespeare, Van Gogh. “Already in the early stages we note the classic impact of the catalytic figure, the outsider, plunging into the center of an ordered world.” Which mirrors exactly what happens in-game in-game. Everyone suffers from a comedic, not-so-comic identity crisis.

Birdboot writes for another newspaper. His opinion tends towards the superficial. He keeps pictures of his last rave review which was neon printed as an advertisement at the last theater. But what really interests him is the ingenue. He protests to Moon that he is a married man, although Moon had seen him with the young actress the night before. And what happens on stage? Yes, infidelity among the guests.

Stoppard is a pro at linking events into neat packages. It pokes fun at the conventions of a murder mystery with its overly explicit expositions and coincidences – when Mrs. Drudge picks up the phone, she responds with “Hello, drawing room at Lady Muldoon’s country residence on an early spring morning. ” She only speaks on display, and Britton has no idea. Then, as the game within the game reaches its first climax, it places its two protagonists directly into the plot. He plays his ace and Inspector Hound flies into real absurdity.

Annoyed by the ringing of a telephone to which no actor seems to answer, Birdboot goes on stage and picks up. It is his wife who accuses him of having slept with Felicity, the ingenue (Alexandra Szeto-Joe). Dismissing her, the scene replays, and now he’s stuck in it, taking the role of Simon (Philip Hays). Life and theater come full circle. Moon implores him to return to his seat, but Birdboot is once again obsessed with the beautiful widow Cynthia, the mansion’s mistress (Elizabeth Marshall Black). Stupid like Simon, he can’t help it.

Twists, like everything that has, come fast and furiously. Moon is also sucked in, and the revelations, complications, and murders are perfectly insane. Everyone falls in love with Stoppard, and director Claire Hart-Palumbo keeps the ham at bay and the wheels turning brilliantly. Casting pros handle Stoppard’s gnarly dialogue with wonderful poise. The tongue is never far from the cheek. When Inspector Hound (Jim Salners) comes through the flooded bog, he is carrying inflatable kiddie pontoons on top of his galoshes; Magnus (David Harlan) walks around in a wheelchair, knocking down all rivals for Cynthia’s affections. Satire is at the center of the satire, but when Moon laments his fate, Feltch flies away and the pleasure is pierced with genuine pain. Comedy with a kick.

This first work (1968), coming two years after his first great international success, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, (and long before the classic Tthe real thing, Arcadia, the invention of love, the coast of utopia), is minor Stoppard, and even at 70 minutes he falters near the end, but you can’t fault his surface sheen, wordplay, nonsensical fun, and moldy theatrical convention skewer and even moldy theater critics. . There’s satisfaction in that, I think.

Performances continue through August seven 1-7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Main Street Theatre-Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard. Guests must present proof of a negative COVID test (within 48 hours) or vaccination card. Masks are strongly recommended but not mandatory. For more information, call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $35 to $59.

The production will also be available online from August 4 to 14. Tickets go on sale August 3. $20 to $40.

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