Previewed by Gail M. Burns, October 2003
The days are growing shorter and the frost is on the pumpkin. Are you ready for a rattling good evening of murder and mystery? Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from October 23 through November 15, the Main Street Stage is presenting The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard, a murder mystery that goes beyond the bounds to poke fun and the genre and bring into question the thin “fourth wall” separately audience from actors, fantasy from “reality.
Director Alexia Trova admits to being a big murder mystery buff, “When I was growing up I read Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle and all those wonderful whodunits,” she recalled, “The Real Inspector Hound has the elements of a typical murder mystery – the English mansion in the fog – but there is an underlying sense of foreboding where reality and drama intermingle. The play is a huge farce, with enough giggles to keep everyone interested, but it is also tremendously intelligent.”
Today Stoppard is considered one of the greatest living playwrights writing in the English language. His plays, such as The Real Inspector Hound, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Travesties are full of word play and references to English language literature, but Stoppard was born in 1937 in Zlin, Czechoslovakia and English is not his first language. After fleeing from the Nazis, the family spent time in Singapore and India before emigrating to England in 1946. Stoppard dropped out of high school to begin a career in journalism, including a stint as the drama critic for from 1962-1963 for Scene, a British literary magazine. At this time he also started writing plays for radio and television. In 1966 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead catapulted him to international stardom. The Real Inspector Hound followed in 1968.
The play was first performed in London and then made its way across the Atlantic to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in 1970. The show was presented in New York City in 1972 on a double-bill with Stoppard’s After Magritte, but didn’t get a Broadway production until twenty years later. Brief, very funny, and less overtly political than many of Stoppard’s works, The Real Inspector Hound has been a favorite at college and regional theatres since it debut.
The Main Street Stage cast includes: Michael Trainor as Birdboot, David Joseph as Moon, Lisa Remillard as Mrs. Drudge, Frank La Frazia as Simon Gascoin, Lisa Murray as Felicity Cunningham, Barbara Cardillo as Cynthia Muldoon, Spencer Trova as Major Magnus Muldoon, and Teddy Aspen as Inspector Hound.
The cast has only been rehearsing for about a month, and many rehearsals have been minus one or two players because of schedule conflicts. All of the cast and crew have full-time jobs, and so their rehearsal time has been limited. Trova acknowledged the assistance of TheatreSports director David Lane, who sat in on many rehearsals. She also noted that this was the first time she has directed her father on stage, an experience which has had its delightful moments and some tense ones too.
“Rehearsals have been a lot of fun, said Lisa Murray who plays ingénue Felicity Cunningham, recalling the challenges of controlling a wheelchair on the raked stage, “We’ve had lots of laughs. Everyone has known each other for a long time. The trust was already there so it was just a case of memorizing our lines.”
“Stoppard has such a depth of understanding of the murder mystery genre,” David Joseph who plays the theatre critic Moon remarked, “You really have to be widely read to pull this off.”
“This play has been an ongoing puzzle for all of us,” said Lisa Remillard, who plays Mrs. Drudge, “There are so many layers. You discover new things and little subtleties all the time. Am I Mrs. Drudge playing the hired help or am I an actor playing Mrs. Drudge playing the hired help?”
“The Real Inspector Hound” runs Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 8 p.m. from October 23-November 15 at the Main Street Stage, 57 Main Street in North Adams. October 23-25 are the preview performances, with opening night (appropriately enough) on Halloween, October 31. The show is suitable for ages 12 and up. Tickets are $12. Call (413) 663-3240 for more information.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2003