Los Angeles Times

April 15, 2005

 

THEATER BEAT

 

Who's the cat, who's the mouse?

 

By now Anthony Shaffer's 1970 murder-mystery twist-fest "Sleuth" has become as much a period piece as the quaint English detective novels it set out to tweak. We're unlikely to be thunderstruck either by the play's mild class critique or its mountingly elaborate fake-outs.

 

In a handsome revival at the Falcon Theatre, director Michael Michetti raises the bar ever so slightly, heightening the play's virtual clash of civilizations and making a lively spectacle of the sparks that fly, even when the turns of the plot grind their gears.

 

In the champion's corner is successful author Andrew Wyke (Mark Capri), who sits alone in an overstuffed country house (a perfectly overstated set by Tom Buderwitz) and types formulaic gentlemen's mysteries while wearing tuxedo pants and a smoking jacket while nursing a glass of Scotch.

 

Enter the challenger, Milo Tindle (Elijah Alexander), the half-Italian, half-Jewish cockney upstart who's been shagging Wyke's estranged wife, in a powder-blue suit of a mystery material, its legs cut only slightly wider than the lapels (the dead-on costumes are by Scott A. Lane). For all his attempts to be polite and drawing room-ready, Tindle has the sort of slicked-back, hirsute Mediterranean manhood that makes him look like he'll need another shave by play's end. No wonder he provokes the Noel Coward-ly Wyke to distraction.

 

The self-consciously preposterous cat-and-mouse game that ensues can still delight those who know the play or its crackling 1972 film version. Michetti's intent, straight-faced production and his prodigious performers provide enough human contours—enough mystery, even—to keep us smiling, if not quite guessing.

 

Rob Kendt

 

"Sleuth," the Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank. 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 24. $25 to $37.50. (818) 955-8101. Running time: 2 hours.