Alumnae Theatre’s production of two one-act Tom Stoppard comedies, After Magritte and The Real Inspector Hound, will most likely change your life. The physical comedy, the bad puns, the double-entendres, the surreal surprises, the belly laughs, the subtle irony… it’s reminiscent of the masters of various genres (you decide which).
Both of the performances were fabulous, absolute collector’s pieces. *”Let me at once say that they have brilliance while at the same time avoiding over-liveliness.” Having said that, and I think it must be said, that The Real Inspector Hound, the second of the two plays, is a one act play in three parts and features play within a play within a play. The stage view is reversed: we’re watching a cantankerous pair of theatre critics from our vantage in the wings. The two try to out-review each other, as a group of overactors stumble through a whodunnit that keeps getting absurdly interrupted. I dare you to try to keep up as reviewer becomes reviewed in Stoppard’s revenge of the criticized.
The first of the two plays, After Magritte, is several stories woven inextricably together only to completely unravel by the end. And it’s just as funny as the second play, but in a different way, and I’d explain that to you but you try explaining a Tom Stoppard comedy with any justice. I’m sure that other reviewer has — you know the one — but really, you shouldn’t bother with that guy. “It’s not that I think I’m a better critic — I am, but it’s not that.” It’s just that you have to experience this for yourself to understand my review. Suffice it to say, which means to answer adequately, but nothing more than adequately, the pair are worth seeing for the wordplay alone.
I like that the actors playing actors were great at bad acting. I like that the designers found two completely different uses for the same set pieces. I like the scripts were consistently funny and the characters consistently charming.
I like that throughout the play I was on the verge of both confusion and giggles. I loved the banter, and lament the lost art of insult that Stoppard does so well. Somewhere near the end of the middle, you’ll think the author and director have “created a real situation, and few will doubt his ability to resolve it with a startling ending. Certainly that is what it lacks so far, but it has a beginning, a middle and I have no doubt it will prove to have an end. For this let us give thanks.”
The play’s not-so-sneak attack on journalistic analysis succeeded in making me feel like an ass while I wrote this review. Now, I’m worried I’ll skew my writing in favour of the cute guy in the police uniform, who managed to make looking confused and eating a sandwich both hilarious and adorable. “It would be as hypocritical of me to withhold praise on grounds of personal feelings, as to withhold censure.” And if I may say so, and I think I should, and will, I believe I found a soulmate in embittered, bewildered stand-in critic Moon, played convincingly by Scott Moore, who like every writer is totally sure of his skill and utterly without confidence.
But that’s all I can say, unfortunately. I can’t tell you what these plays are about, and not because I can’t find the words, actually, but because the program (which I had to sneak past the program taker-backer) politely asks that I do not reveal who the killer is.
I’ve probably already said too much.
*Quoted lines were cribbed from the two theatre critics in Stoppard’s “The Real inspector Hound.” Creative? Lazy? Plagiarism? You be the judge.
This article was originally published by Toronto theatre review site Mooney on Theatre.
Tickets are 2 for 1 on Wednesdays, $20 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and PWYC on Sunday matinees. Cash only.
Showtimes: Wednesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., 2 p.m. Sunday matinees
Photo: Moon (Scott Moore) and rival critic Birdboot (Richard Jones) watch the play “The Mystery of Muldoon Manor” in The Real Inspector Hound. Photo by Jason Meles.