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Play Along with the Game at Carnegie’s “Sleuth”

Review by Sheldon Polonsky of Sleuth: The Carnegie Theatre

In today’s world of fast-paced action movies and special effects, it is refreshing to relax to an old-fashioned English mystery that takes its time to build in suspense and anticipation. That’s exactly what you get with The Carnegie Theatre’s production of Sleuth, opening this weekend. Set in an old British manor filled with all manner of games and bric-a-brac, Sleuth focuses on the one-up-man-ship and class warfare between its two protagonists, eccentric mystery writer Andrew Wyke and his travel agent neighbor, Milo Tindle, whom he invites over for a drink. To tell you anything more about the plot would be a crime, but suffice it to say, like any good potboiler, it is full of unexpected twists and turns and just when you think you know what is going on, Sleuth throws you another curve until the very end.

The original 1972 movie (based on Anthony Schaffer’s 1970 Tony award-winning play) starred the incomparable Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, both of whom were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances, so The Carnegie’s actors have some very big shoes to fill. Brent Alan Burington as Wyke and Rory Sheridan and Tindle certainly are up to the task. Both of them carry the show masterfully with delightful repartee, strong chemistry, and engaging characterizations. They thoughtfully capture all the layers of their antagonism: old vs. young, rich vs. poor, landed Englishman vs. second generation immigrant. Their relationship unfolds in an eye-catching set, one of the most detailed and well-built of any I have seen at The Carnegie, which captures every inch of the English country manor house including an authentic looking Captain Jack, Wyke’s life-size dummy who laughs at his jokes on command via remote control. Director Greg Proccacino manages the space and the blocking well—Sleuth, after all, focuses almost exclusively on two characters at a time, but thanks to the large set and a lot of movement it never seems to get stagnant. All the props were very realistic, as were most of the effects (including gun shots and breaking glass), with the exception of a dynamiting of a safe which seemed poorly executed compared to the realism of the rest of the production.

As I was watching this show, which focuses a great deal on playing games, deception and misdirection, it struck me that on the highest level, the action of staging a play for the audience is the ultimate game. Sleuth is a long play that requires patience and concentration, like any good game, and as such may not be for everyone. But if you give it the time and effort it deserves, you will be richly rewarded.

Sleuth continues at The Carnegie through November 22nd. Tickets may be obtained on their website, www.thecarnegie.com.