Posted at 07:16h
“Sleuth - Mark Rubald and Brandon Palmer” (Provided by RDG Photography)
Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth is one of those thrillers where the less said about the plot, the better. Vintage Theatre and Lowry's Spotlight Theater's whimsical, maniacal production is so good, I don't want to spoil a thing. Suffice to say, that even with a lesser script, this exceptional cast and brilliant director could wring out a must-see show.
Wealthy and successful mystery writer Andrew Wyke (Mark Rubald) invites his wife’s lover Milo Tindle (Brandon Palmer) to his country estate, where their battle of wits quickly turns sinister. The two play an often hilarious, abruptly menacing, and ultimately deadly game of cat-and-mouse, as they seek to turn the tables on one another and walk away with an ephemeral prize.
The dialogue is loaded with irony and double entendres. It's disconcerting to hear jokes originating from anger, jealousy, and contempt, and laughing anyway.
Oneupsmanship is the order of the day, and yet Rubald and Palmer have such a rapport and are so generous in their performances, it's almost as if the actors are working against their own characters to boost the others' mastery of the game. Wyke begins with the home-court advantage, but Tindle rises to the challenge. Rubald gives a tour de force performance as the seasoned game-player, with malice aforethought. Palmer bides his time and ends up giving as good as he gets.
It's all deliciously wicked fun, with inevitably lethal consequences.
The show has so many twists and turns, the term "Sleuth virgin" has been coined as a way of distinguishing those "in the know" from those who have yet to experience the myriad surprises. This is my third time seeing Sleuth, and it's easily my favorite, beating out even the Laurence Olivier/Michael Caine 1972 film version.
Kudos to director Bernie Cardell for bringing out such layered performances and pacing the show like a fencing match. Alex Polzin's set design in the Vintage Theatre's intimate space is exceptional, and I want to give special mention to whoever arranged the Hollywood-caliber special effects involving gunplay.
Sleuth is about much more than two men butting heads over a patently unworthy trophy woman. It raises questions about racism, class bias, and even the worthiness of mystery fiction. The facts, Tindle warns Wyke, are never as tidy as the fiction. In Sleuth, no one is truly innocent, and the reality of revenge isn't nearly so much fun as the seeking.
By Patrick Dorn - February 5, 2018