The Deaf West Theatre offers a special experience for both the deaf and the hearing. The actors sign the dialogue in American Sign Language; audience members who can hear wear lightweight headphones, as actors offstage supply the voices. It’s like getting radio drama and stage drama all at once.
This production of Anthony Shaffer’s “Sleuth” is probably best suited for anyone who has never before seen the play or the film: Those familiar with either one will realize that the story is all intrigue and little else. All that’s left is to admire the fine performances, the set and the direction.
The plot concerns well-to-do English mystery writer Andrew Wyke (Bernard Bragg), who has invited his ex-wife’s lover, Milo Tindle (Troy Kotur), over. The twists revolve around each man’s motivations and the desire for one-upsmanship — to reveal more would take away from the play’s fun.
Director Dennis Erdman meets the special challenges of this production. Simple things become even trickier, such as props (since the actors use their hands to sign) and blocking (when they’re not facing each other, the actors can’t see what’s being said) — and all this is in the context of fast and clever dialogue and stage business. The signing-while-acting looks natural and seamless.
Actors Bragg and Kotsur bring diverse personalities into conflict, with the latter bringing appropriate hilarity to his role when needed.
Roy Doliner and Barry Philips, on the headphones, acquit their voiceover roles well.
The lavish two-story set, designed by Jim Barbaley, provides impressive production value. Maro Parian’s costume design and Keith Endo’s lighting design fill the play’s needs well.