Great Lakes Theater’s ‘Sleuth’ is theater to die for
For those who love mystery theater you will absolutely fall for the Great Lakes Theater production of Anthony Shaffer’s “Sleuth” now playing in the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. It will have you laughing yourself to death.
This tale of murder and intrigue has more plot twists that a bent corkscrew and is carried through by two of Great Lakes Theater’s (and for that matter, Cleveland’s)finest actors.
“Sleuth” first saw the light of stage in 1971 where it received a Tony Award for Best Play as well as Drama Desk Awards for Anthony Quayle and Keith Baxter who starred in the original staging. The play was later made into feature films in 1972, 2007 and 2014.
Andrew Wyke (David Anthony Smith) is an immensely successful writer of murder mystery novels living in England. He lives in an enormous and well appointed mansion (Whittshire Manor) where he partakes of the finest things that life has to offer. He is a well traveled man of the world who has a passion for games.
On a dark and stormy night he invites Milo Tindle (Jeffrey C. Hawkins) to visit him in his lair. The cook and all the servants have been given the night off and his wife, Marguerite, is out of town.
The meeting begins civil enough as both men enjoy each other’s company over their favorite drinks but it soon becomes apparent the reason for the rendezvous. It seems that Milo is in the process of taking Andrew’s wife from him. Andrew seems OK with the arrangement but is worried that Milo who is barely getting by from the styling saloon that he owns in town may not be able to keep the woman in the lap of luxury that she has become accustomed to being married to Andrew who reveals that his is a loveless marriage.
Andrew reveals his plan which has Milo breaking into the mansion, blowing the safe and stealing a collection of jewelry worth over £ 200,000 and fencing the collection through a Swiss friend of Andrew’s. Thus Milo will have enough money to keep his new paramour in style, Andrew will be rid of a thankless marriage while allowing him to comfortably pursue his Finish girlfriend, Téa.
Thus an elaborate ruse is hatched that includes Milo dressing up in a clown outfit complete with size 45 shoes and scary mask, climbing a ladder and cutting a hole in the window glass on the second floor and blowing the safe. At first Milo is reluctant to participate in this highly illegal scheme, Andrew keeps brow beating Milo until the young man caves in and agrees to participate.
Milo changes into the colorful clown outfit, finds the ladder and breaks into the house through the upstairs window. The safe is blown and Milo carefully stores the jewelry in the huge pockets. The two men then proceed to trash the entire mansion in order to give the burglary theory some weight.
It is then that Andrew reveals the real plot...that is to kill Milo while telling the police that he, Andrew had discovered a man breaking in and shot him in order to defend his home. Milo begs and pleads for his life but to no avail as Andrew shoots him in the head at the top of the circular staircase. Milo’s body slides down the stairs...dead...but is he?
As for the show itself, let us first talk about the set designed by Gage Williams. It is nothing short of absolutely magnificent. In the pre-show warm up, Great Lakes Theater Artistic Director and director for this particular show, Charles Fee pointed out that the amazing set had been designed and all its elements constructed in Cleveland.
There is an ornate entryway, a large stone fireplace, a spiral staircase going up to a landing with ornate windows leading to a master bedroom. Downstairs is well appointed library with desk and an open area upstage with a divan, chair, hassock and various tables with games set up for playing. Everything is rich looking and dark wood. Magnificent! There is also “Laughing Jack” a life size sailor puppet who plays a large part in the ending.
Lighting is especially important in the process of this show with lightning flashes, dramatic mood lighting and other effects. Jess Klug does a fantastic job in his capacity of lighting designer. The sound was also spot on with the boom of reverberating thunder, music and other sound requirements necessary to move the story along.
Now for the show itself. The success of any murder mystery type show is that the ending needs to be a complete surprise with no tipping of the hand to reveal what is to come. The second act especially takes the audience through all kinds of twists, turns, red herrings and theories that make the surprise ending that much more enjoyable.
David Anthony Smith as Andrew Wyke and Jeffrey C. Hawkins as Milo Tindle work perfectly off of each other. You never really know who has the upper hand on the other as each one is a master game player with numerous tricks up their sleeves.
If you are someone who likes to investigate what goes bump in the night and enjoy a great murder mystery comedy with a madcap ring to it this is must see theater for you. This show will leave you guessing right up to the end. Boo!
“Sleuth” runs through March 8, 2020 in the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio. For information and tickets visit www.greatlakestheater.org or call (216) 241-6000.