What the critics are saying:

Review: Sleuth a deliciously fun thriller at Center REPertory Company

By Pat Craig
Correspondent

Posted:   April 2, 2014

OK, here's the thing to remember if you go see the stage thriller "Sleuth" at Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for the Arts: Don't believe anything you see, hear, or, for that matter, read. That even applies to the program being handed out by the friendly ushers.

The devilish British playwright Anthony Shaffer did his best to confuse and confound you and Mark Anderson Phillips, who directs this production, seems only too happy to join in on the gag(s).

"Sleuth" has been around since 1970, in one form or another. There have been dozens of productions around the Bay Area, and the two film versions are available on video. But the stage production is best, and you can't go wrong with the lavish Walnut Creek version staged by Center Repertory Company.

Kit Wilder plays the rich and famous mystery author Andrew Wyke and Thomas Gorrebeeck is the young and dashing Milo Tindle who is having an affair with Wyke's spouse.

Milo is conducting the affair so well, in fact, Wyke urges him to continue with it. He even offers to help.

Or perhaps not.

Perhaps Wyke is not who he seems to be. But then, maybe he is. I'm still not sure, and I saw the whole thing unfold before my eyes just hours ago.

This confusion is not due to a complex and confusing plot. Everything happens on stage, right in front of you, and it's not particularly complicated.

"Sleuth" is the sort of play Agatha Christie would have written if she'd had an enormous cruel streak. The story line reaches a point where it bolts free from its stiff-upper-lip British mooring and runs madly around the stage.

And it works, mainly because "Sleuth," itself, is something that it isn't supposed to be. When it opens in Wyke's country home in Wiltshire, England, it seems like the audience is in for a conventional English drawing room mystery.

And what a drawing room it is, too. Scenic designer Michael Locher has created a set that everyone would kill to take home, provided they have a two-story great room, a fondness for dark wood, books, painting, photographs, a cozy fireplace, comfortable furniture, lots of games and other diversions, and a bar that never seems to run out of booze.

What most makes this production work, however, is the cast. Wilder and Gorrebeeck create amazingly believable characters who seem absolutely real, until all the strange stuff begins to happen and the story takes a hard left at crazyville.

The two men are in a pitched game of cat and mouse, with the roles of hunter and hunted changing frequently as the story gets stranger and stranger.

It's a wild ride well worth taking.


Center REP "Wows" Audiences with Its Production of 'Sleuth'

By Jan Miller

Posted:   April 3, 2014

"Sleuth" has been shown on both stage and screen for decades. Still, Center REPertory Company’s current stage version of this thriller is unprecedented. 

One of the best stage thrillers of all time, Sleuth has been dazzling audiences with its breathtaking surprises and revelations for quite some time. In the story, successful British mystery writer Andrew Wyke (played by Kit Wilder) invites his wife's lover, the much younger and dashing Milo Tindle (played by Thomas Gorrebeeck), to his mansion and proposes an intricate scheme in which they can all come out winners. So begins the twisty, high-stakes game of brinksmanship.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that if you've seen an earlier version of the play or the movie, you've figured this one out. Yes, one of the plot gimmicks is the same, but to be honest, if you’ve seen “Sleuth” before, or know someone who has, you may have already heard about the gimmick. 

But to be honest, the story isn't about the gimmick, anyway. It's about the verbal duel that two men perform one edgy night. Andrew Wyke receives a very late visitor, Milo Tindle, who is having an affair with his wife. 

Scenic designer Michael Locher, who created the set – the interior of a weathered two-story country house estate - is to be applauded for the extraordinary job of putting together an impressive display of metal, glass, crystal, books, paintings, photographs, a fireplace, and, not to be forgotten a laughing sailor dummy that reminds one of Laughing Sal at the old Playland at the Beach. But I digress; the story is not about the house.

“Sleuth” is not really a mystery at all in terms of the plot. Instead, it’s about an eerily impenetrable human relationship. What is really at stake between Andrew and Milo? Does either one even love the wife? Would Andrew be just as happy to get her off his hands, or does he want to keep her just to show that he can? The suspense is really not about who gets the wife, but about who wins the conversation. 

It becomes more of a chess match: Do they mean what they say? Do they feel what they do? Who takes it more seriously? Both? Neither? Are they calling each other's bluff? 

Frankly, I feel that the crux of this production is about dialogue and performance, and therefore I found myself intrigued more with the actors than the characters, and how they deliver their lines so convincingly. 

Quite simply, Wilder and Gorrebeeck are amazing as they create such believable characters, both of whom seem absolutely true-to life; that is until things turn weird as the two become entangled in a game of cat and mouse, with their roles changing as the story gets more bizarre.

If you want to take a walk on the wild side then seeing Center REP’s production of “Sleuth” will be a journey worth your while.

 


Curtain Calls By Sally Hogarty: 'Sleuth' highly entertaining, and full of decorating ideas

By Sally Hogarty

Posted:   April 9, 2014

Hope you're enjoying this beautiful weather. I finally have my weekends back after touring with a children's show for the past nine months. Enough already!

Sometimes set designers drive me crazy. Case in point -- Michael Locher's incredible library/great room for Center Rep's current production of "Sleuth."

It's full of warm tones, a cozy fireplace and so many books and other eclectic items that I just wanted to move in and never leave. I actually did contemplate what floors and ceilings I could knock out in my own home to replicate this splendid dwelling where mystery writer Andrew Wyke pens his popular novels.

If you can manage to tear your eyes away from Locher's marvelous set and listen to Anthony Shaffer's clever repartee, you're in for a treat. A perfect balance of humor, sarcasm and danger keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. Just when you think you know what going to happen, Shaffer spins his tale in another direction to keep you on your toes.

The combined talents of actors Thomas Gorrebeeck (Milo Tindle) and Kit Wilder (Andrew Wyke) make Shaffer's subterfuge possible, not to mention highly entertaining.

Shaffer's intricate plot begins with Wyke inviting Tindle over for a chat on the premise he wishes to know his neighbor better. Of course, it soon comes out that Wyke knows all about the affair and wishes the young lovers well -- or does he?

The consummate spoiled child, Wyke lures Tindle into one game after another, alternating between gales of laughter and menacing actions. His character's active imagination allows Wilder to show his versatility as he careens from one impersonation to another.

Gorrebeeck, as the middle-class travel agent, also shows his considerable dexterity as he finds himself ensnared in the wealthy writer's nefarious plots.

Director Mark Anderson Phillips keeps the action fast and furious with the perfect balance of humor and terror. Kudos also go to prop master Shaun Carroll (I understand artistic director Michael Butler helped out as well) for the outrageous amount of period-perfect set decorations from pinball machines to sinister talking mannequins to the well-stocked bar and bookshelves.

But to be honest, the story isn't about the gimmick, anyway. It's about the verbal duel that two men perform one edgy night. Andrew Wyke receives a very late visitor, Milo Tindle, who is having an affair with his wife. 

Scenic designer Michael Locher, who created the set – the interior of a weathered two-story country house estate - is to be applauded for the extraordinary job of putting together an impressive display of metal, glass, crystal, books, paintings, photographs, a fireplace, and, not to be forgotten a laughing sailor dummy that reminds one of Laughing Sal at the old Playland at the Beach. But I digress; the story is not about the house.

“Sleuth” is not really a mystery at all in terms of the plot. Instead, it’s about an eerily impenetrable human relationship. What is really at stake between Andrew and Milo? Does either one even love the wife? Would Andrew be just as happy to get her off his hands, or does he want to keep her just to show that he can? The suspense is really not about who gets the wife, but about who wins the conversation. 

It becomes more of a chess match: Do they mean what they say? Do they feel what they do? Who takes it more seriously? Both? Neither? Are they calling each other's bluff? 

Frankly, I feel that the crux of this production is about dialogue and performance, and therefore I found myself intrigued more with the actors than the characters, and how they deliver their lines so convincingly. 

Quite simply, Wilder and Gorrebeeck are amazing as they create such believable characters, both of whom seem absolutely true-to life; that is until things turn weird as the two become entangled in a game of cat and mouse, with their roles changing as the story gets more bizarre.

If you want to take a walk on the wild side then seeing Center REP’s production of “Sleuth” will be a journey worth your while.


SLEUTH another winner at Center REP in Walnut Creek Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5 stars)

By Kedar K. Adour, M.D.

Posted:   April 11, 2014

Be advised that the cast members after their well deserved thunderous applause at the curtain call pleaded with the audience not to give away the totally surprise ending but do tell your friends about how much you enjoyed the show. OK, fair enough especially since all is not what appears to be, including the program.

What we do know, and all that you will learn from this reviewer, is that it all begins when an egotistical, successful, both professionally and financially, mystery writer Andrew Wyke (Kit Wilder) inviting his wife’s lover Milo Tindle (Thomas Gorrebeeck) to his country home in Wiltshire, England. His home is a palatial mansion (Michael Locher’s stunning five stars set is worth the price of admission) furnished with paraphernalia reflecting his obsession with playing games.  Kit Wilder gives a magnificent portrayal of Wyke’s supercilious, devious, arrogant, privileged yet personable nature necessary to make the plot line plausible.

Enter handsome, charming, sexy Milo, the son of an Italian immigrant, with only public school education and not very financially secure. Andrew on the surface does not seem to mind his wife’s dalliance since he has a mistress but there is a hint of jealousy about Milo’s good looks and virility.

Since Milo will need money to keep his paramour in the manner she is accustom to living with Andrew, maybe Milo would not be adverse to play a game that would supply Milo with money but require a theft of her jewels. OK. Milo is ‘game” and allows Andrew to set up the game that will appear like a robbery by a man dressed as a clown. (Don’t ask!) The interaction between Milo and Andrew gets weirder and weirder and director Mark Anderson Phillips moves his characters around as if playing a chess game. One might conjecture that the upsetting of the chess board earlier in the act may be symbolic of what is to happen. The first act curtain is a stunning killer with the set in total disarray.

When the curtain rises (actually the lights come up, there is no curtain) the set is again immaculate and all the toys are back in place. The peaceful ambiance is upset when inspector Doppler arrives announcing that Milo Tindle has disappeared and there is information that the last place he visited was Andrew’s mansion. Surprise after clue after clue is discovered and the previous unflappable Andrew is at his wits end.

As the second act continues, there is twist and turns along with the surprises that will leave you befuddled but Anthony Shaffer’s brilliant writing wraps up the evening with all the loose ends tied up.