The cast gathers in the theater. Under the bright spotlights, costume jewelry of diamonds and pearls sparkle on the necks of the leading ladies. The men wear bow ties and dapper suits, and a maid dons a ruffled head dress.
And everyone is laughing.
The jovial chemistry in the room is undeniable as cast members, floating in and out of character, launch playful insults and jests about who gets to kiss Bristol Lee Whalen, how well Pete Dawson plays a dead body and who gets to say, “I think I’ll go oil my gun.”
But don’t let this confuse you, as the theater’s upcoming play is not “your typical farce.”
“This is an intellectually and very sophisticated play written by one of the foremost contemporary writers of the past century,” said Director Jane Maxwell Campbell.
“The Real Inspector Hound” by Tom Stoppard, comes to San Juan Community Theater in July and August.
Stoppard, who earned an Academy Award for his screenplay, “Shakespeare in Love,” wrote “The Real Inspector Hound” in the 1960s as a parody of the stereotypical parlor mystery in the style of Agatha Christie.
“The Real Inspector Hound” is a play within a play, set in Muldoon Manor, where murder, intrigue and romance unfold, while two theater critics watching the “play” become entangled in the comedic and mysterious plot.
The cast includes a womanizing critic, a young innocent girl turned ruthless and vengeful, an inspector and many more intriguing characters.
Douglas Schrimer, who plays one of the critics, said the comparisons between his character and his own life are obvious.
“We’re all critics, so that’s easy,” he said. “A play within a play, that’s easy because I have experienced that juxtaposition in my life with plays that I’m in and being freaked out by the coincidences.”
Several of the other cast members nod their heads in agreement and someone says, “It’s so true.”
The play may hit home for many of the cast members, but the time period presents certain challenges and opportunities to the cast that is quite outside the realm of life on the islands.
The play within the play is set in the 1920s, while the critics “watching the play” are set in the 1940s. The lavish costumes almost upstage the props of Oriental rugs, antique furniture and decorative french doors.
“The time period is fun, especially because we don’t ever get to dress up on the island,” said Amanda Lee Smith who wears a blonde wig, red lipstick and a plunging neckline.
“Having an accent [British] and another time period, with comedy is extremely challenging,” said Bo Turnage, who plays a critic. “The difficulty makes it fun.”
For Maxwell Campell, the language is what made her fall in love with Stoppard’s work.
“I’ve always loved the language,” she said. “The language is sophisticated and very tongue in cheek.”
The play is only an hour, but Stoppard manages to fit in plenty of complex, suspenseful and mysterious scenes.
“You get caught up with these actors, as they get caught up in the play within a play,” Maxwell Campbell said.