Rarely does the critic get to watch him or herself on stage. Yet, that is exactly what happened during the opening night of The Critic and The Real Inspector Hound at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre. Critics and theater-goers alike enjoyed two wonderful spoofs on the theater critic.
Directed by Michael Kahn, The Critic and The Real Inspector Hound presents two short plays, each providing us with a view through the critic’s lens. The show was adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher (The Turn of the Screw, Tuesdays with Morrie and A Confederacy of Dunces).
“The similarities between [the two plays] are extraordinary, yet their styles could not be more different. Putting them together is a dizzying, thought-provoking and very fun challenge,” said Kahn. “And the critics have had of lot of fun with me over the years, so I think we can have some good-natured fun with them.”
Front: Robert Stanton, Naomi Jacobson; back: Robert Doorman, and John Catron
And fun it was. The actors totally rose to the occasion. In the first play, Robert Stanton, as Mr. Puff, is tireless in his rendering of a wannabe playwright, who gets snookered into making totally senseless adaptions to his new drama, The Spanish Armada. The two critics, Mr. Dangle (John Ahlin), and Mr. Sneer (Robert Dorfman), devise this plan to make a fool of Mr. Puff, thereby ruining his play.
One scene is funnier than the next, as Dangle and Sneer suggest changes to the play that they imply will make an important director like it better. Mr. Puff’s costumes and wigs, designed by Murell Horton and Kelly Anne Johns, alone elicit laughs and Mr. Puff takes everything in stride.
As you will see, however, the last laugh is on them.
Robert Stanton and John Ahlin
Stanton returns in the next play as Moon, one of two critics who are in the audience (on stage) watching a ‘who-done-it.’ Throughout the show, they are commiserating on their weaknesses. Moon feels overlooked because he is always second-string to a Mr. Higgs, while Birdboot (John Ahlin), talks about his craving for dalliances with the play’s leading ladies.
All the time, the mystery is taking place in front of them. It is set at Muldoon Manor in the foggy marshes of Essex, England. Everybody is on edge as a murder has been committed nearby and the police home in on Muldoon Manor as the scene of the crime.
Charity Jones, John Ahlin, and Robert Dorfman
Lady Cynthia Muldoon (Charity Jones) is entertaining her guests as various people come in and out of the Manor. They include: Simon Gascoyne (John Catron); Major Magnus (Hugh Nees); Felicity Cunningham (Sandra Struthers); and Mrs. Drudge (Naomi Jacobson). Any one of them could be the killer. Robert Dorfman returns as Inspector Hound.
Photos by Scott Suchman
At the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Lansburgh Theatre through February 14th at 450 7th Street, NW Washington, DC 20004. For tickets and information call 202 547-1122 or visit Shakespeare Theatre.