One of the advantages of ruling over a vast print-media empire (not yet rivaling the late Rupert Murdoch’s) is that I can do a bit of self-promoting, for a good cause of course.
I have to tell you, it’s mystery.
No, really, it’s a mystery. The Merc Playhouse’s summer production, “The Real Inspector Hound,” opens this week and continues next week through Aug. 6. “Hound,” written by noted British playwright Tom Stoppard, is a send-up of the Agatha Christie parlor murder mystery style of drama.
It’s got all the necessaries for that whodunit genre. Shots are fired. Corpses pile up (in fact, there’s one on stage when the play opens). Threats are made. There are love triangles and quadrangles. Everyone is a suspect, everyone is a potential victim. The fog rolls in. Clues drop — or do they? There is a delightful dose of misdirection.
“Hound” is further complicated by its structure: It’s a play-within-a-play. It’s easier for you to go see it (please do!) than for me to explain it. About mid-point in the play, the two realities start to unravel. It all moves pretty quickly, so you need to pay attention.
And, it’s really funny, in a you-must-utterly-suspend-disbelief way. I know, because I’ve already “seen” it dozens of times in rehearsals. My character is Magnus Muldoon, the wheelchair-bound half-brother of Lord Albert Muldoon, at whose isolated country manor the action takes place.
If, at the play’s end, you are a little uncertain about what happened (part of the mystery), don’t worry about it. The cast was confused too as we began working our way through the play with director Ki Gottberg. We had discussions — arguments, even — over “what’s happening here?”
My advice is to go with the flow and appreciate the zaniness of it all.
The cast of eight, in addition to me, includes Seattle University students Brennan Bunn and Josh Swaby, the incomparable Danbert Nobacon, local high school students Daisy Hilton and Cash McClane, LaShelle Lyman and Madelynn Eubanks. LaShelle and Madelynn are relatively new to the valley, and I think you’ll be impressed by their acting talents.
Stage manager Hannah Mathews and costumer Elaine Ortiz are also on loan from SU, where Ki is chair of theater department. They and rest of the crew have done a fabulous job behind the scenes to make sure everything is as sharp as it can be.
This will be my fourth appearance in a Merc production, having been in “Twelfth Night,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and the Readers’ Theater production of “Morning’s at Seven.” I also directed the Readers’ Theater production of “The Gift of the Magi” last fall.
The theater bug bit me pretty hard, but I’m not complaining. I’ve really enjoyed it and have learned a lot about what it means to be part of the “family” that forms around each production. Community theater affords us that opportunity to participate.
We can’t do it without audiences. We love seeing viewers in the seats, as we are really doing it for them.
Our weeks of preparation are nearly over and it’s time for the show to go on. We’re eager to hit the stage. We have lots of options for attending, including a couple of matinees and pay-what-you-can night on Aug. 3.
Who is the real Inspector Hound? No spoilers here — you’ll have wait for the dazzling denouement. And then don’t give it away.