Reston Community Players’ production of The Game’s Afoot is a lighthearted, murder-mystery comedy. The comedy was written by American playwright and Tony Award winner Ken Ludwig, of Lend Me A Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo fame. Directed by Liz Mykeityn, the show contains plenty of mistaken innuendos, false confessions, and a few surprise laughs.
It is Christmas Eve, 1936, and Broadway star William Gillette, known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, has invited a troupe of players to his Connecticut mansion for the holiday. When one of the guests is stabbed to death, the star attempts to take on the persona of his acclaimed hero and solve the murder.
Set designer Nicholas Queyrane and Set Painter Cathy Reider capture the feel and décor of a 1930s Connecticut mansion. The set construction provides a revolving door/bar that can hide secrets – reminiscent of the one in the movie High Society (the musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story). The door in itself becomes a highlight of the production, enhancing the plot when its deliberate malfunctions become part of the characters’ dilemma, turning when it shouldn’t and revealing things best left hidden. The placement of props with the murder weapon lying in obvious reach on the wall adds a little bit of dry humor, as the characters allude to the weapons before the murder takes place in a bit of obvious foreshadowing.
Historically, Gillette (the character in Game’s Afoot is based on a real actor who lived from 1853 to 1937) is best remembered for portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage and in a 1916 silent film. The Gillette character in this production (played by Tim Silk) is a bumbling sort, believing his life-long rendering of Sherlock Holmes qualifies him to solve any crime, putting his abilities even above Inspector Goring (Carolyn Heier), who comes to the mansion to investigate the murder. Silk gives a comedic performance with just enough self-importance in his misguided attempts to provide a suspect and a plausible explanation.
A highlight comes in the second act when the murder victim is carried by two main male characters, Gillette and Felix Geisel (played by Zell Murphy), as they attempt not so successfully to hide the body from Inspector Goring. The cast member who portrays the unfortunate murdered soul personifies “playing dead” as they are maneuvered into some really amusing body positions. Hilarity ensues as the two bumbling men try every which way to find a suitable place for the victim to remain hidden in their attempt to shield a suspect. Their physical slapstick was an audience favorite.
Additionally, a couple of honorable mentions in this quirky whodunit should go to cast members Katie Kramer as the dramatic reporter Daria Chase, and Charlene Sloan for her sarcastic and funny portrayal of Madge Geisel. Rounding out the cast are Alexa Yarboro as Aggie Wheeler, Nathan McGraw as Simon Bright, and Susan Garvey as Martha Gillette.
One small quibble with the play was the use of British accents by the entire cast even though the play is set in 1930s Connecticut. There were times when the characters quoted Shakespeare within the play, but they kept moving in and out of accents within the general dialogue, which was somewhat confusing.
Reston Community Players’ The Game’s Afoot plays select dates through February 1, 2020, at Reston Community Center – 2310 Colt’s Neck Road, in Reston, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 476-4500 or go online.