As the lights go up on Ken Ludwig’s
“The Game’s Afoot” at the Sutter Street Theatre, we see Sherlock Holmes,
recognizable by his trademark deerstalker hat, and a man in black who is
soon identified as Holmes’s arch enemy Moriarty pointing a gun at him.
Holmes is unarmed as Moriarty has stolen his gun. Moriarty attempts to
kill Holmes, but Holmes has previously removed the bullets from the gun.
Foiled, Moriarty leaps to his death out a three story window.
We are witnessing the climax of a
play within a play, but as the actors take their curtain calls another
shot rings out and the star falls to the ground.
Two weeks later, the actor William
Gillette (played to egotistical perfection by John Haine), who was
playing Holmes, is recovering in his palatial castle, built with the
money he has earned playing Sherlock Holmes for fifteen years on
Broadway. It is Christmas Eve and Gillette is hosting a party for his
fellow cast members. A fierce blizzard rages outside, so no one will be
The party, we learn, is a subterfuge
for Gillette’s intent to uncover his attempted murderer. (Throughout the
play various characters need to remind him he is not really Sherlock
Holmes.) The cast is all there, Felix (Jason Titus) who played
Moriarty, is present with his wife Madge (Laura Luke). Simon Bright
(Anthony Raddigan), the male romantic lead accompanies actress Aggie
Wheeler (Heather Warren) whom he has recently married following the
tragic death of her first husband, who has left her his huge fortune.
Another guest arrives later, the
glamorous theater critic Daria Chase, performed with total venom by Jody
Wills. Daria has, in the past, written vicious reviews of all the actors
in attendance. In addition to being a critic, Daria, it turns out, is
also a medium, and Gillette has arranged for her to conduct a fake
séance as a way of uncovering his assailant.
The other person present for the
party is Gillette’s dotty old mother Martha, played hilariously by
Sutter Street newcomer Shara Lynn Kelsey.
The fake séance does not have its
desired effect, but Holmes (rather Gillette) is faced with two more
murders to solve. It seems the doorman at the theater has earlier that
day had his throat slit, and at the end of Act l an additional murder
takes place among the guests at the sealed-off castle.
In Act Two help arrives for
Holmes/Gillette in the person of Inspector Goring, a tweedy policewoman
with aspirations to be an actor herself. Played by Karen Sandoval,
Inspector Goring, like the other party guests who are already actors,
launches into speeches from Shakespeare at every opportunity.
Will the murders (turns out there
are actually three) and the attempted murder be solved? You probably
already know the answer, but the culprit will certainly not be revealed
here, and the plot twists and turns and the usual red herrings, and some
hilarious slapstick, will keep you guessing until the end. For the
answer, and a totally delightful evening of murder and comedy, take
yourself to “The Game’s Afoot,” ably directed by Warren Harrison,
weekends in May at Folsom’s Sutter Street Theatre.