November 7, 2023
Theater Review: Highly Entertaining 'The Game's Afoot'
Joe Siegel READ TIME: 2 MIN.
"The Game's Afoot," now being presented by Arctic Playhouse, is a highly entertaining mystery/comedy which will keep you guessing up until the very end.
The year is 1936. Actor William Gillette, who played the famous detective Sherlock Holmes on stage, finds himself involved in a real-life crime when one of his guests is murdered.
Everyone is gathered at his palatial mansion in Connecticut on Christmas Eve.
Gillette's actor friend Felix (Johnny Bender) is hiding a secret from his wife Madge (Jacqueline Sophia).
The vixen Aggie (Leah Kiernan) has secrets of her own, including her unrequited love for Gillette. Her wealthy husband died not too long ago in a tragic accident on a ski slope in Vermont. But was it really an accident? And was her new husband Simon (Kevin Thibault) motivated by love or money?
Gillette has invited a special guest for the evening: the famous writer Daria Chase (Kelly Barry). Chase is acid-tongued and wastes no time antagonizing everyone, especially Gillette's hot-tempered mother (wickedly funny Ida Zecco).
Gillette was wounded by an assassin while taking his bows onstage and holds a séance in an effort to reveal his would-be murderer.
Before the evening is over, someone (no spoilers here) is stabbed in the back.
Gillette's house, which this reviewer has visited and is quite magnificent in its gothic qualities, has been lovingly recreated for the stage by set designers John Braica and Bob Gerold. Although I don't recall seeing a hidden room during my tour, I'm fairly certain there may have been an assortment of firearms and daggers displayed on a wall.
Director W. Richard Johnson ("The 39 Steps"), working from a witty script by Ken Ludwig, adeptly handles the many twists and turns in the storyline.
Ron Martin ("Murder at the Howard Johnsons") plays Gillette as a lovably eccentric man unafraid of living dangerously. Martin displays a devilish charm as Gillette tries to solve the murder.
Barry makes for a deliciously vampy villain as the ill-fated Daria and Sharon Johnson ("Exit Laughing") is a lot of fun as an odd detective with acting aspirations.
Bender exhibits sharp comic timing as the hapless Felix, who gets a few well-earned slaps on the face for his infidelities. There's some terrific physical comedy as Felix and Gillette attempt to conceal a dead body from everyone.
Special mention must also be given to Nancy Rodrigues Spirito's gorgeous costumes.
The resolution of the plot isn't necessarily plausible, but it is satisfying.
Johnson and his actors set out to take us on a wild and unpredictable ride through madness and murder and they succeeded. They were having fun and I had fun watching them.
"A Game's Afoot" runs through November 19 at the Arctic Playhouse. 1249 Main Street, West Warwick, RI. For tickets, visit https://www.thearcticplayhouse.com.
Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.