Feb 12, 2016

[Theater] The Game's Afoot (Repertory Philippines)

So it feels like more and more Miguel Faustmann has been involved in a number of comedic straight plays being staged by Repertory Philippines. And I can't really complain since his past few productions were all quite good, especially given how they managed to successfully stage Noises Off, one of my favorite farces, and the surprisingly entertaining Run For Your Wife last year.

But The Game's Afoot was an odd production that certainly had a lot of potential but didn't quite seem to deliver during execution. Whether this was due to a bad night or an overall concern with how the play had been directed and rehearsed is hard to say. But all I can present from my perspective is that it really wasn't as great as hoped and felt like a bit of a stumble for the beginning of this year's regular season for Repertory Philippines.

This brings to mind their staging of The 39 Steps back in 2011 that totally didn't deliver on its promise of Monty Python style humor while celebrating the works of Alfred Hitchcock. But I guess you can't win them all.

Synopsis: The Game's Afoot is a comedic play written by Ken Ludwig and had won the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Play. This Repertory Philippine staging was directed by Miguel Faustmann and ran at the Onstage Theater from January 15 - February 7, 2016.

At the center of the play is the character of William Gillette (Paul Holmes), a Broadway actor who is best known for his portrayal of the great detective Sherlock Holmes on the stage. Thus we are presented with things in the play-within-a-play format starting with the curtain call of Gillette's latest production. However he is shot at the event with the assailant managing to get away. Fast forward a bit and we now have Gillette inviting members of the cast to his Connecticut home for the Christmas holidays, but also to determine who had made an attempt on his life. And his grand home is complete with recording devices, secret rooms and a generous number of weapons, making just about anything possible in this whodunnit comedy.

Now things did seem to start promising enough with the Gillette play at the beginning  and the initial arrival of Gillette's home. But over time things went on at a somewhat strange pace where many of the lines seemed a little off. It certainly wasn't a problem with the writing - just a repeated occurrence of punchlines not hitting their mark due to timing. Sure the lines were said and in your head you know that a joke was just uttered but the overall pacing of things just felt wrong. Often times a good line wasn't allowed to sit them and bloom in the minds of the audience for full comedic effect.

And it's not like they didn't have a good cast involved - the team was certainly talented in their own right both in terms of their theater experience and just how they carried themselves on the stage. So more and more it feels like there was something else making things a little wonky, which is what brings me back to wondering about the direction.

And the team did pretty well in other aspects including costumes and the pretty generous set that allowed for multiple entrances and exists, as is typical farces of this nature. The space just wasn't always used to full effect as we had odd moments of actors clustering in certain spots when they probably could have spread out a bit and other such nuisance moments.

I was a bit of a struggle for us to stay awake at times as we were honestly hoping that things would turn around. Another couple in our row left during the intermission and never returned when the curtain came up again. And I really wanted to this play to be a good one since I do enjoy a good mystery.

The Game's Afoot's true mystery was where the heck did the comedy go? There was only one group in the audience that consistently laughing at everything that was going on, but it was clear they were somehow friends of the cast or the production team so it felt more like the sort of laughing that comes with in-jokes among a circle of friends. Thus the performance could only rate a wobbly 2 near-death scares that just didn't execute well out of a possible 5.

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