The Real Reality: PTD Productions explores Tom Stoppard’s multilayered “The Real Inspector Hound”
Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound puts a theater reviewer in the interesting position of reviewing a play that satirizes theater reviewers reviewing a play. It is an absurdist work that is, on the surface, like a play-within-a-play, but it becomes something more. It’s a journey that explores identity, authenticity, and what is real versus what we tell ourselves might be real. PTD Productions performs this layered classic with aplomb.
The audience is first introduced to characters Moon (Russ Schwartz) and Birdboot (Larry Rusinsky), two theater critics attending a new murder-mystery play in London in the style of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. (The title is also a reference to Christie’s famous play.) Moon is a second-string theater critic with an obsessive fixation on first-string theater critic Biggs. Throughout his monologues, Moon begins to define his existence with Biggs’s absence and ponders killing Biggs in order to take his place. We eventually learn, however, that there is a third-string critic Puckeridge behind Moon, and Moon wonders if Puckeridge yearns for Moon’s death as Moon dreams of Biggs’.
Birdboot is a “respectable married man” who worries that his (deserved) reputation as a philanderer who offers to boost the careers of actresses through his reviews in exchange for spending an evening with him. He spent the previous night with the actress who plays Felicity (Hailey Justice Cook) in the performance he and Moon are there to watch, but is quickly distracted by, and becomes infatuated with, the actress who plays Cynthia (Karrie Waarala), similar to the character Simon (David Crews) in the play-within-a-play.
The whodunit is introduced by the humorous Mrs. Drudge (Cindy Franklin), Cynthia’s housekeeper, who dusts around the stage, which is set up as a parlor in an isolated mansion during the 1930s, and completely fails to notice the body lying under the sofa. Other characters include Cynthia’s alleged brother-in-law Magnus (Jerry Doty) and, real or otherwise, Inspector Hound (Wyatt Woodside).
The personal drama playing out with the critics off-stage and what occurs on stage eventually merge, which is where the play we’re watching builds to its own twist ending, a true mind-bender that takes time to fully digest. And with so many little winks and nods hidden throughout, a second viewing of Hound would not be superfluous. In this cast’s capable hands, the audience is also in for a laughing good time filled with double entendres and effectual physical comedy.
Crysta Coburn is a desk clerk with the Ann Arbor District Library, freelance writer, editor, and author.