Witty little liars

By Mary C. Cusack
Photo courtesy of LukeAnthony Photography

All is not as it seems in Riverwalk's 'Sleuth'

“Sleuth,” Riverwalk Theatre’s latest production, is a classic cat-and-mouse story that remains entertaining, despite being somewhat dated.

The plot unfolds slowly at first. Lengthy exposition introduces Andrew Wyke (Jeff Magnuson), a bestselling crime novel author whose wife is having an affair with young hunk Milo Tindle (Joseph Mull), a struggling small business owner.  

Wyke invites the lad to his mansion for drinks. Further lengthy exposition establishes that Wyke wants Tindle to take his wife (please!) so that he can be with his own mistress. Wyke counsels Tindle that absent wife Margaritte has expensive tastes that Tindle can’t afford, but Wyke has a plan to stage a robbery in an insurance scam that will benefit both of them.

From here, the pace picks up considerably, and the audience must cut through the thickly-accented dialogue to keep up with the twists and turns of the complex plot. Another major distraction is the obvious, but overdone, makeup effects used to age Magnuson. The too-precise age lines across his face detract from the otherwise naturalistic production elements.

Bob Nees’ set and the prop work done by Melody Teodoro-Kurtis and Ray Kurtis are phenomenal in conveying the privileged, yet cozy, atmosphere of a British gentleman’s country home.

The cast is solid and fully committed to the physical requirements of their roles, but it would have been interesting to see how they would have fared had the play been adapted to an American setting. Doing away with the heavy accents may have allowed Magnuson and Mull to concentrate even more on the subtleties of their intricate rivalry and the underlying respect for each others gamesmanship.

The most interesting aspect of this play is that the trickery does not take place solely on the stage. The company itself is fully involved in the sham, engaging the audience in ways that are clear only after the cast take its final bow. A salute of “well played” goes out to Riverwalk Theatre and director Mary K. Hodges-Nees.

Riverwalk Theatre
Through Feb. 24
7 p.m. Thursday
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
2 p.m. Sunday
$10, $8 students & seniors, Thursday
$14, $12 students & seniors, Friday- Sunday
228 Museum Drive, Lansing
(517) 482-5700