Culture & Conversation

Joyride Through a Dark and Stormy Night

TOM STOPPARD’S The Real Inspector Hound is not only the best play ever written about theatre critics, it’s one of the funniest scripts around. MainLine Theatre’s production that just opened in their space on St. Laurent Blvd is a gas pedal to the floor kind of show. For the most part, director Jeremy Hechtman keeps a hand on the steering wheel, so the whole careening farce makes it through a breathtaking 90 minutes. At $12 a pop (with a four-play pass), it’s hard to imagine a better antidote to winter.

Two theatre critics, the veteran Birdboot and his younger counterpart, Moon, are reviewing a formulaic murder mystery when they get drawn into the mechanism of the play onstage, chewed up and spit out – victims of the very world they were sent to review. It’s hard to say which side comes off looking worse, the bored egoists who sit in judgement or the ludicrously implausible players who go under their pen. Stoppard splits his satirical barbs down the middle.

As Birdboot, Brian Wrench is a fine, stiff, bleary-eyed Brit, wilfully comfortable with hypocrisy and eager to benefit from his position of power. Paul Van Dyck brings delicious grad student earnestness to Moon, a welcome touch of reality in a cast happy to plumb the depths of cliché. But then the “play” in question – called Murder at Muldoon Manor – begs to be taken over the top, so it’s hard to blame the players for giving in.

Lea Rondot as Mrs. Drudge excels at physical comedy, her composition of pivots, feather duster and eye work creating great mirth. Her accents span the globe, but since Hechtman has chosen to make fun of the essential Britishness of this farce, a free-range approach to linguistic ticks seems somehow appropriate. Heidi Hawkins and Michelle Boback are delicious femmes fatales, sharing excellent comic timing with Patrick Goddard as Major Magnus Muldoon and Shawn Baichoo, who is the real Inspector Hound. Everything else is minimalist and quite sufficient.

For those who have yet to discover MainLine Theatre, its home is a rambling second-floor spread above a grocery store on the Main, with a lobby full of garage sale furniture and surprisingly comfortable seats. Everything about this dear old venue reeks of how the Plateau was before prosperity set in, when you could rent loft space for a song and not worry about eviction. There were plenty of options. Rents have shot up, but Hechtman and his crew have their act together. MainLine Theatre has a Facebook address, a meaty mailing list, a winter-long rostrum of plays by independent companies and the Fringe Festival as a main gig (60,000 tickets sold last summer). All of this consolidation effort has added up to a substantial following.

Waste no time getting tickets for The Real Inspector Hound. This clever entertainment will not be ignored by those in the know.

Continues through February 14. 3997 St. Laurent Blvd. Box Office 514-849-3378.

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