Best friends Felix (left, Eric Hissom) and William (Donald Sage Mackay) play around with a prop gun in the Cleveland Play House production of Ken Ludwig's "The Game's Afoot"
Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni.


The Game's Afoot is Murderously Funny

by Vicky Croisant

Cleveland Play House continues to make a name for itself in the theatre world by producing the world premiere of Ken Ludwig's THE GAME'S AFOOT (OR HOLMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS).

THE GAME'S AFOOT stars Donald Sage Mackay as William Gillette, an actor best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Gillette is wounded following an attempt on his life at a performance and invites a few friends over for a Christmas Eve celebration at his Connecticut mansion while he recovers. In the vein of "whodunit" murder mysteries, the plot takes many twists and turns. When a murder happens at the mansion that evening, Gillette puts his Sherlock Holmes skills to the test in an attempt to solve the crime before something else goes awry.

The script is well written with nary a misstep. Dialogue is witty and face-paced. Ken Ludwig has fleshed out full characters that make an impression on the audience. There's suspense within the laughter and even when you think you've figured out who the bad guy is, you start to question yourself when the plot takes an unexpected twist.

With a small eight-person cast everyone has multiple scenes to shine. Donald Sage Mackay plays the eccentric William Gillette to a T. Mackay portrays Gillette as a combination of comedian, hero, detective and loyal friend. Rob McClure and Erika Rolfsrud – playing Simon Bright and Daria Chase – stole almost every scene they were in. McClure delivers one-liners with perfection and Rolfsrud is a theatre critic you love to hate. Eric Hissom, Mattie Hawkinson, Lise Bruneau, Patricia Kilgarriff and Sarah Day round out the stellar cast.

Daniel Conway's set design is breath-taking. When the curtain opens to reveal the interior of the Connecticut mansion you don't know where to look first. Do you look at the period furniture or the walls that appear to be solid stone? What about the festive holiday decorations or the doors that look like they're hand-carved from wood? Knick-knacks, books and props fill every nook and cranny of the space, giving the audience lots to take in. Linda Roethke's costume designs are the same way – brightly colored with delicate detail and pattern. From Gillette's Sherlock Holmes costume to his smoking jacket and tie, there's a true sense of who the character is. Credit should also be given to the staff of Cleveland Play House for their execution of these brilliant designs. They helped bring the production to a high level of excellence.

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