By PAM HARBAUGH
High-style repartee, theater, murder and wit blend into Ken Ludwig’s glorious concoction called “The Game’s Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays.” And in the hands of Melbourne Civic Theatre talent, this farcical souffle rises to the comic sublime.
Like he did in previous theatrical comedies, (“Lend Me a Tenor,” “Moon Over Buffalo,” “Leading Ladies” and the book to “Crazy for You) Mr. Ludwig uses the world of the theater as a backdrop to mad goings-on in “The Game’s Afoot.” We immediately meet a theatrical company headed up by the famous William Gillette playing Sherlock Holmes. A shot rings out and soon, the musty stage turns into the brilliant art-deco inspired Gillette estate on the Connecticut River where a group of theater friends have been invited to spend Christmas Eve. All is pitter patter perfect until…egads…the drama critic arrives.
I will not reveal one bit more for fear of spoiling the deliciousness that ensues. Allow me to leave it that this production is exhilarating in its timing, delirious in its dialogue and funny as hell in the acting of it all.
Christina LaFortune is at the top of her game in the role of Daria, the drama critic who’s both sophisticate and slut. In wonderful vampy style, she takes stage focus and dishes out “I’m a sorceress. A wave of my pen and I can make you a star.” Ms. LaFortune wrings every drop of humor from this role, leaving you aching for more.
Glenn Krasny as Gillette is an urbane man as comfortable dishing out lines from Shakespeare as he is solving a murder. Mark Blackledge is his very funny, often befuddled sidekick. The two of them have one of the funniest scenes in the second act when they try to hide…er…something.
Kim Dickman adds some nice layers to Gillette’s mother, Martha. Deanna Dickman and Zephan Smith are sweet and fun as Aggie and Simon. Tracey Thompson brings a good style to Madge. And Tori Smith mines funnier stuff than was written for her role of the Inspector.
Director Peg Girard has become so adept at comedy that she is beginning to make this look all so easy. She knows her timing and pacing. Knows what’s needed visually to tell a story with terrific entertainment value. And knows how to relate all this to her cast and crew.
Alan Selby’s scenic and lighting design here are splendid. His set, complete with a wall filled with weapons, art deco touches reminiscent of the Empire State Building, art deco paintings and a staircase that really feels as if it’s leading to the second floor. Then there’s…no, I can’t say that either.
Wendy Reader does her usual excellent work on sound design. Jessica Foix’ hair and wig design is terrific as are the costumes headed up by Jennifer Frandsen.
So much fun to see such a good production of a really funny comedy. Opening night may not have been sold out, but my guess is the rest of the run will be.
SIDE ‘O GRITS: “The Game’s Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays” performs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 16 at Melbourne Civic Theatre, 817 E. Strawbridge Ave., Melbourne. Tickets are $25 general, $23 students, seniors and military. $2 service fee for credit card ticket purchases. Call 321-723-6935 or visit www.mymct.org.