While Shaffer’s play does creak with age its tightly plotted twists ring an occasional false note it could hold up in the right hands.
Sleuth (Pasadena Playhouse; 680 seats; $ 39.50 top) Pasadena Playhouse presents a thriller in two acts by Anthony Shaffer. Director, Alan Bailey; set design, Gary Wissmann; lighting, Kevin Mahan; costumes, Zoe DuFour; sound design , Jon Gottlieb. Opened, reviewed Sept. 22, 1996; runs through Oct. 27. Running time: 1 hour, 50 min. Cast: Ian Ogilvy (Andrew Wyke), Darrell James (Milo Tindle) The Pasadena Playhouse’s production of Anthony Shaffer’s 25-year-old classic thriller, under the direction of Alan Bailey, treats the play as little more than a museum piece, finding none of the vitality or edge of the original stage production or the 1972 movie starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine.
After all, it tells the tantalizing story of blueblood detective-novelist Andrew Wyke (Ian Ogilvy), who is bent on revenge against his wife’s half-Jewish, half-Italian lover, Milo Tindle (Darrell James).
In his novels, as in his life, Wyke sets out to control every nuance of plot, of emotion and of environment. Into thisweb he entices Tindle, and spins out a game of deception that ultimately fails when the deception is turned back on him.
While Shaffer wrote a clever thriller with the psychological underpinnings of rage and revenge, he was also making a larger statement about the Andrew Wykes of the world, particularly those of the decadent privileged classes, who play games with the rest of us simply because they can get away with it.
It’s a tricky play to pull off, and much depends on strong casting. While Ogilvy gives a smooth, mannered performance as the effetely demented Wyke, his work is ultimately superficial. There seems to be precious little reality at work in Ogilvy’s characterization; as a result, the novelist’s motivations are muddled and his emotions lost.
James doesn’t fare much better as the target of Wyke’s games. After understudying the role, James stepped in a week before opening; although he struggles to find some grounding for his character, he never succeeds in raising Tindle much beyond a foil, getting little help from Ogilvy’s performance or Bailey’s direction.
Although the striking set by Gary Wissmann could add much to a stronger production, it is presented here as kind of a monument to the failure of the play — it looms large over the empty proceedings on stage. Costumes designed by Zoe DuFour are fine, but there is nothing that can rescue this ill-considered revival from its fate.