Total Rating: 
March 29, 2013
May 12, 2013
Asolo Repertory Theater
Theater Type: 
Florida State University Center for the Performing Artz - Mertz Theater
Theater Address: 
5555 North Tamiami Trail
Running Time: 
2 hrs, 15 min
Ken Ludwig
Greg Leaming

With its hero loosely based on actual playwright William Gillette, best known for his lucrative career portraying his creation of Sherlock Holmes  , The Game’s Afoottakes place in a stage version of Gillette’s real American castle. With decor of medieval armor and weapons as well as numerous doors and a library-anchored round wall that swings into a fully appointed bar, the setting is perfect for director Greg Leaming’s specialty: farce.

Almost recuperated from being shot during a performance, Gillette, in full histrionic Sherlock mode, asks cast members to join him and his eccentric, now-retired actress mother over the Christmas holidays. They’re meant to help ferret out the theater shooter.

Gail Rastofer’s gaudy, acid Darla Chase comes in as a drama critic everyone hates but stays (on and on, between her body being spirited away and awkwardly reappearing) as a corpse. Knifed! Whodunit? Gillette will apply Holmes-with-Conan Doyle methods to expose his guests’ secrets, while most of them play supporting roles in solving what becomes a very circumvoluted mystery.

Bryan Torfeh pulls off Gillette’s histrionics in a surprisingly sophisticated manner. As his mother, Peggy Roeder epitomizes hatred for and desire to get even with the evil critic Darla Chase, while being more subtle about her related actions at home than she must have been in her stage career.

Eric Hissom, in a world premiere, created the role of Gillette’s sidekick and the stage character of Holmes’ antagonist, Professor Moriarty. Hissom has now thoroughly absorbed his host’s good friend Felix Geisel with contradictory feelings about his wealth.

No doubt of Felix’s dislike of Darla, though, and of the effect of their very brief offstage relationship on his present one with his actress wife (Elizabeth King-Hall, beautiful but proving Madge Geisel to be insecure).

Brittany Proia and Joseph McGranaghan acquit themselves credibly as Aggie Wheeler and Simon Bright, though they’re seemingly mismatched new marrieds. They were brought strangely together on the occasion of her husband’s accidental death.

Aggie’s not above flirting with their host, exactly the opposite of Simon’s attitude toward Darla. He has a habit of going off or being onstage alone.

Outside help with solving the murder comes from comical, unshapely Inspector Goring, who latches supportively onto Gillette’s methods but like a parody of Miss Marple  . It’s the kind of role Carolyn Michael’s been slipping into consistently with the Rep. Though she’s good at it, as my escort opined, all that’s changed here is her costume.

Speaking of costumes, Eduardo Sicangco’s, especially for the women, vie with the castle Christmas tree in seasonal colors, luminosity, and ostentatious ornamentation. Gillette’s is the nearest to these among the menswear. All of the technical staff deserve the frequent audience oohs and ahs.

To add to the pleasure of seeing comedy well done, playwright Ken Ludwig sprinkles his script (like his title) with Shakespearian quotations and allusions. He also references Arthur Conan Doyle’s spiritualism-related beliefs (including a Noel Coward-tinged seance) and Sherlock Holmes’ inductive methods. Fun added to so much funny!

Bryan Torfeh plays actor William Gillette, who was famous for his stage role as  Sherlock Holmes in Ken Ludwig's "The Game's Afoot" at Asolo Rep. BARBARA BANKS PHOTO/PROVIDED BY ASOLO REPGail Rastorfer plays a vicious theater critic and gossip in "The Game's Afoot.' BARBARA BANKS PHOTO/PROVIDED BY ASOLO REP

Bryan Torfeh, Eric Hissom, Brittany Proia, Elizabeth King-Hall, Joseph McGranaghan, Peggy Roeder, Gail Rastorfer, Carolyn Michel
Set: Judy Gallen; Costumes: Eduardo Sicangco; Lighting: Mary Louise Geiger; Sound: Fabian Obispo; Fight Dir: Robert Westley; Vocal Coach: Patricia DeLorey; Wigs & Makeup: Michelle Hart; Dramaturg: Lauryn E. Sasso
Marie J. Kilker
Date Reviewed: 
March 2013