There may not be a more interesting play than Tom Stoppard’s “The Real inspector Hound” to pair against last month’s “The Mousetrap,” by Agatha Christie, which ran as part of Big Dawg Productions’ current season. Artist director Steve Vernon has chosen to present plays that have similar themes back to back throughout the rest of the year.
Written in the early ‘60s, “The Real Inspector Hound” essentially is a parody of Christie’s 1950’s parlor mystery, and even takes its name from the ending of “The Mousetrap.” The show follows two theatre critics who are watching a whodunnit-style murder mystery yet find themselves in events that parallel what they’re watching unfold onstage. Essentially, the audiences are seeing a mystery via a play within a play—and a lot of British humor arises from such.
Director Lee Lowrimore—who last oversaw the stunning “Venus in Fur” a few years back—is attracted to the absurdist storytelling nature of the show. “It appeals to my love of meta-humor and demolishes the expectations of the theatrical experience,” Lowrimore says.
“The Real Inspector Hound” will be played by local actor Jamey Stone. Stone says being an unrestrained lunatic in the show has been revealing of his character. “Layering multiple layers of intention without giving too much away” has challenged his acting chops as well.
From two theatre critics, Moon (Mike O’Neil) and Birdboot (Steve Vernon), the audience learns of their obsessions and inner thoughts via their reviews, which tend to be rather bombastic in nature. Themes of identity and destiny are revealed, leaving onlookers surmising the differences between reality and dreams. Yet, according to Lowrimore, its levity and humor make “The Real Inspector Hound” accessible.
“‘The Real Inspector Hound’ is a play about theatre people and the nature of reality,” Lowrimore says. “And it’s funny. And Tom Stoppard’s dialogue is just cool.”
The playwright manages to ensure every line penned advances the story arc, its characters and theme. In fact, the two plots in the show, the reviewers’ lives and the murder mystery they’re reviewing, become entangled.
“Stoppard does a remarkable thing in ‘Hound,’” Lowrimore details. “He is one of those rare playwrights whose lines often advance [plot, characters and them] at once. He repeats a number of scenes, substituting one character for another. While this is strange, almost bizarre, the repeated scenes are funnier and more meaningful. He sets it all up, but you don’t see it coming until it all falls into place.”
The characters are rounded out by Major Mangus, played by James Bowling; Cynthia Muldoon, played by Rachel Lewis Hilburn; Felicity Cunningham, played by Rachel Moser; BBC Voice, played by Eric Paisley; Simon Gascoyne, played by Derek West; and Mrs. Drudge, played by Eleanor Zeddies.
Terry Collins and Dallas Lafon have been working with the remnants of “The Mousetrap” in set design. ““The set was actually built for ‘The Mousetrap’ and Terry will modify it for ‘Hound,’” Lowrimore says. “Folks who see both plays will realize that they’re exactly the same, just completely different.”
Stephanie Aman has designed costumes, while Nick Fenner is in charge of lights, and Vernon has been the prop master. “The Real Inspector Hound” opens Thursday with a “pay what you can” opening-night admission. Big Dawg’s shows are quick to sell out so reserve seats now by calling 910-367-5237.