The premiere of Asolo Rep’s latest play was to die for, loaded with laughter and applause. The opening-night audience applauded the set, the costumes and the special effects, as well as the actors. Watching Ken Ludwig’s farcical, witty mystery was like spending an evening savoring bonbons and brie: decadent, deadly and delicious.
The production’s unabashed celebration of drollery and farce delights the palate with sheer over-the-top indulgence. For starters, its richly detailed set, which Judy Gailen designed, echoes William Gillette’s magnificent, idiosyncratic medieval castle in Connecticut. The story is based on the real-life character of Gillette, who made a fortune over 35 years as lead actor and playwright of “Sherlock Holmes — A Drama in Four Acts,” in the early 20th century.
The costumes, by Eduardo Sicangco, are emblematic of the glamour of the period. Each one is its own piece of perfection, from Holmesian wool houndstooth to a red velvet full-length, divinely draped wrap, whipped off to reveal daring pale palazzo pants — just kill me now. Both the lighting, by Mary Louise Geiger, and the sound design, by Fabian Obispo, are highly worthy of note.
Greg Leaming’s direction gives the actors all they need to flaunt their stuff to full effect. The stunning cast plays the theatrical characters to the hilt, reveling in their attention-seeking egos, spouting Shakespeare at every turn, just like a party in the Hollywood Hills.
Brian Torfeh, who is delightfully magnetic as Gillette, makes me think of an elegant Tom Hanks — and who doesn’t want more Tom Hanks? Gail Rastorfer literally throws her beautiful body into the dark soul of Daria Chase, a theater critic everyone loves to hate. Peggy Roeder plays Gillette’s mother, Martha, with a sweetly winning blend of grace and befuddlement. Carolyn Michel is charmingly quirky as a Connecticut Detective, dressed and accented as if she’d just stepped in from a walk on the moors. Eric Hissom, as Gillette’s close friend Felix, and his wife, Madge, played by Elizabeth King-Hall, are lively additions to the ensemble, and Brittany Proia, as Aggie Wheeler, and Joseph McGranaghan, as Simon Bright, play their parts most convincingly.
If you go
“The Game’s Afoot” runs through May 12, at Asolo Repertory Theatre. For more information, call 351-8000.