by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre opened a new comedy farce that is Christmas themed with the title “The Games Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays.” It will be on the Matuza Mainstage at 11 Old Mission Avenue until January 5, 2014, with a special New Year’s Eve party showing. Call 904-825-1164 for information and reservations or visit limelight-theatre.org.
With this play, the winner of the 2012 Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Play, Limelight is presenting a present for all you fans of playwright Ken Ludwig. Not sure if you are a fan? Well, if you have seen plays in the past few years in North Florida, you have no doubt seen one or more of Ludwig’s works. They include “Lend Me a Tenor,” “Moon Over Buffalo,” “Crazy For You,” “Shakespeare in Hollywood,” “Leading Ladies,” “The Beaux’s Stratagem and “Twentieth Century.” Ludwig has penned several more that have received good reviews but not yet played in this area.
“The Game’s Afoot” takes place on Christmas Eve in the Connecticut mansion of William Gillette who is an American actor famous for playing Sherlock Holmes for many years. Gillette is played by award-winning Jacksonville actor ROGER LOWE, in another of the larger than life character roles in which he excels. In his role as Holmes, the star was shot in the arm by an unknown assailant during a curtain call, and he has invited his fellow actors for a weekend of Christmas fun as he recovers. His real reason is to play a bit of real life Sherlock Homes and determine who fired the shot. In the course of the evening another murder occurs, throwing this play into a high velocity farce, as the mystery of figuring out which of his guests committed the crime consumes the entire cast.
Directors KRISTIN PIDCOCK & CATHY O’BRIEN have cast a very talented and wonderfully unbeatable bunch of truly zany actors. This directing duo had previously combined their talents to direct “Barefoot in the Park” on this same stage.
VANESSA WARNER is Martha, Gillette’s protective and delightful mother. While most of her acting has been in St. Augustine, last year she was in Theatre Jacksonville’s “The Triangle Factory Fire.”
RACHEL ROBERTSON plays the young and very attractive Aggie, a former love interest of Mr. Gillette, despite their age difference. Now she is a widow, or is she? And is she as sweet as she seems? Miss Robertson is a theatre student at FSU, and has number of credits on the Limelight stage; the most recent was in “Spamalot”
LAWRENCE HESSION is the animated Felix, Gillette’s best friend and acting buddy. Hession plays the role with fine touches of tomfoolery. Jacksonville audiences will recall his excellent Dave Moss in “Glengarry Glen Ross” at Players by the Sea.
JAMES “DEZ” DESMOND is Simon, another member of the acting company who also has his share of secrets, and is a prime suspect as both the murderer and the shooter. Mr. Desmond was also a cast member of the acclaimed Limelight “Spamalot” playing role of Patsy.
CATHY O’BRIEN, whose name you have already seen as Co-Director, plays Felix’s kooky and hilarious wife. Ms O’Brien did not intend to be on stage in this play, but as December casting can be especially challenging, agreed to the role. We recall most her most brilliant performances as Gretchen in “Boeing, Boeing” (we are still laughing) and her dignified Lizzie in “The Rainmaker.”
GAYLE FEATHERINGILL, a veteran Jacksonville Beach actress, was selected as Best Actress in Players by the Sea’s “The Trip to the Bountiful” last season. As Inspector Goring, of the local police force, Ms. Featheringill shows her versatile style playing the role very primly and properly with a dash of bafflement that added to the fun.
One final guest invited to the party is Daria Chase, an infamous theatre critic, who is also a medium. Gillette has asked her to conduct a séance to provide a lead from another realm that will answer the question of who shot him in the theatre. This character was certainly one of our favorites, since theatre critics don’t appear in many scripts; the last we recalled was Mortimer in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” MARGARET KALER aces this role. She fully lives up to the description of one cast member who said “She is evil; she is a theatre critic for God’s sake!” This is one the funniest roles and Ms. Kaler lights up the stage with her performance.
Certainly one of the stars of this show has to be Scenic Designer TOM FALLON’s beautiful set, that consists of elegant furnishings stretching across the entire stage, with deep rose walls as a background. As one character says, “God would live here, if he could afford it.”
The costumes by LORRAINE ROKOVITZ definitely compliment the set, and were well chosen vintage pieces. We were especially impressed with Daria’s shiny black form-fitting dress.
The play takes place on Christmas Eve, and there are some decorations here and there, but no tree, and none of the characters utters a ‘Merry Christmas’ or a ‘Bah Humbug.’ but there are plenty of Ludwig’s one-liners for which he is deservedly famous. Limelight’s production has created a night for big laughs, filled with a wonderful exuberance and comic inventions. One thing for sure, the show is never
allowed to bog down; things are always continually happening.
Jacksonville theatre fans, this is an opportunity to be among the first to see what is sure to be an popular holiday play in the years to come. A number of fine Jacksonville actors have combined their efforts with St. Augustine’s best to really entertain you for two hours. It is also a chance to experience the enchanting lights of the City of St. Augustine at holiday time.