Thursday, April 4, 2013

Asolo Rep Presents Ken Ludwig's "The Game's Afoot"

Opening night at Asolo Rep is quite a production--and I'm just talking about in the lobby!    Dorrit, Bruce, and I found ourselves in the midst of the glitz last Friday night when we took in the premiere of Ken Ludwig's "The Game's Afoot."  Almost as soon as we arrived, we ran into Eduardo Sicangco, costume designer for the show, whom we had heard speak the previous day about the process of dressing the actors.  (He was quite gracious when we pounced on him and told him how excited we were to see his costumes on something other than a mannequin.)  As we were settling into our seats, we saw Vic Meyrich, production manager for Asolo Rep since 1969.  Meyrich was one of the guides on "Halo Day" when we toured the Koski Production Center where sets and props for the Asolo's shows are built.  It was beginning to feel like old home week.  Dorrit and I were chattering feverishly about all of our inside information about the production when Bruce expressed some concern that we would talk throughout the show.  We assured him that we would communicate with our elbows during the performance and, with that, the curtain rose.

The lead character in the play is William Gillette, a real actor from the 1930s who popularized Sir Conan Doyles' Sherlock Holmes on the American stage.  (Gillette played the role for 30 years in over 1300 performances.)  "The Game's Afoot" opens with a theater troupe taking a bow at the end of a performance, with actress Brittany Proia (Aggie) wearing the gorgeous hat that we'd seen at the talk the previous day. (This was cause for the first of many nudges.)  In the next scene the troupe gathers in Gillette's home for a Christmas Eve celebration.  The plot of this farce is way too circuitous to explain but suffice it to say--SPOILER ALERT-- that a theater critic joins the festivities and ends up with a knife in her back.   The remainder of the play is a good old-fashioned whodunit, with some wonderful physical comedy by Gail Rastorfer (the critic), Bryan Tofer (Gillette), and Eric Hissom (the Watson character) and quite a number of belly laughs.

Dorrit at the disappearing bar.  It's an optical illusion
that she's touching the set!  
It was a lot of fun to watch the actors parade around the set of Gillette Castle, which we had seen being created during our visit to the Koski Center.  (The Castle, located in East Haddam, CT, is open for tours during the summer and is apparently quite the destination.  In one of those "this was meant to be" things, director Greg Leaming grew up near the Castle and spent summer afternoons on the grounds as a child.  So when he and set designer Judy Gailen visited the property last summer, he was actually returning to his old stomping grounds.)   In this picture, Dorrit is in front of a bar that plays an important role in the story.  The painting that's behind her appears at the top of the stairs on the set.   And the walls of the Castle are adorned with three very large murals that were being worked on during our tour.   You're probably starting to get a sense of why we had such a blast seeing this show!

Prop master Jeff Dean with his
seance table 
Some of the props that we saw in production also made an appearance during the show.  There is a seance in the first act, and just as the spirits began responding to the call, I realized that we had seen the table that the actors were sitting around being built.  (I don't think it's giving too much away to tell you that the table is made of styrofoam for easier levitation.)   That realization definitely warranted a good jab in Dorrit's side.

All in all, it was a great evening. The play was entertaining, the actors were top notch, and the costumes and set were fabulous,  And while I'm sure I would have enjoyed the play without our recent tours of the Asolo, there's no doubt that knowing a bit about the different aspects of the production made me appreciate it all the more.  On our way out the door, we snagged some sweets from the opening night post-play party to fuel us for our ride home.  We were already on a high from the play, but a little sugar never hurts!


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