“The Real Inspector Hound” is written as a play within a play, says director Jack Cannon, MFA. The audience at the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center in Birmingham in 2017 will watch another audience preparing to watch a play in the Criterion Theatre, in London in 1968. That play just happens to be “The Real Inspector Hound.”
As the play begins, the only person of note on the stage is a dead body. In walk two men and take their seats among the audience. They begin talking as if no one else were in attendance. Soon we discover they are theater critics Moon and Birdboot, there to review the play. The play progresses as an overly dramatic murder mystery in which every character can be assumed to be the killer, and the two critics are ensnared in the action, leading to the discovery of the identity of the dead body on stage. The two critics slowly realize they may be the next victims; but alas, it is too late as the play concludes and prevents their escape. It was touted by The Daily Mail as “a tour de force of theatrical metaphysics.”
Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22-25 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Center, Sirote Theatre. Tickets are $12 and $15, $6 for students, and $10 for UAB employees and senior citizens. For tickets, call 205-975-2787 or go to www.AlysStephens.org. Visit Theatre UAB online at www.uab.edu/cas/theatre.
The play was included in the season to give Theatre UAB students exposure to acting styles different from the familiar reality-based style of Stanislavsky, Cannon says. The cast spent the first week of rehearsal under the instruction of UAB Professor of Voice and Movement Marlene Johnson, MFA, exploring the British dialect and acting techniques of British theater. “Inspector Hound” is actually based in three separate acting styles interwoven together, he says: the farcical acting style of British comedy, the melodramatic acting style of the “who done it thrillers” of Agatha Christie, and the style of Theatre of the Absurd.
|Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22-25 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Center, Sirote Theatre. Tickets are $12 and $15, $6 for students, and $10 for UAB employees and senior citizens. For tickets, call 205-975-2787 or go to www.AlysStephens.org. Visit Theatre UAB online at www.uab.edu/cas/theatre.|
“Essentially, it is an existential play questioning whether there is choice, purpose and meaning in life,” Cannon said. “However, instead of looking at life as tragedy, ‘The Real Inspector Hound’ looks at life through a satirical sleuth’s magnifying glass. Exposed is the exaggerated self-indulgence that all humans experience as their lives remain motionless, insignificant and meaningless.
“Stoppard avoids slipping into a tragic point of view by allowing the audience to experience the play as a satire. He wants us to resist the absurdity by laughing in its face.”
Theatre UAB Production Manager/Technical Director Ed Zuckerman, MFA, created the scenic design that places a separate theater on the Sirote stage, allowing the real audience to actually view another audience viewing a play. As the play within a play takes place, the real audience sees backstage technicians changing the set. The production also takes advantage of farcical, melodramatic acting styles with grand character entrances set to music and exaggerated sound effects to enhance the murder mystery plot of the play, Cannon says.
“If the audience actually arrives early to the Alys Stephens Center they will get to see a 15-minute ‘dumb show,’ that shows what goes on backstage prior to a play’s being performed and the arrival of the onstage audience as they all struggle to find their seats,” Cannon said. “The entire play, performed without an intermission, is a laugh-out-loud comedy making fun of the art and conventions of theater itself.”
The cast is Taylor Dole of Pelham as Moon; Seth Burgess of Warrior as Birdboot; Jenn Palmeri of Alpharetta, Georgia, as Mrs. Drudge; Eboni Booker of Toney as Felicity; Addie Counts of Chattanooga, Tennessee, as Cynthia; Russell Alexander II of Montgomery as Simon; Dai’sean Garrett of Childersburg as Magnus; Chance Novalis of Madison as Hound; Lucas Bradley of Mountain Brook as Body; and Camilla Almond of Dunwoody, Georgia; Brooke Payne of Birmingham; Ben Johnson of Fort Payne; Brady Grimm of Fairhope; Charlotte McCrary of Birmingham; and Antonio Mitchell of Phenix City as audience/technicians.
The crew includes Rita J. Pearson-Daly of Montgomery, stage manager; Emily Harris and Alex Askew of Montgomery, assistant stage managers; Terencea Holtzclaw of Talladega and Allie Nichols of Tupelo, Mississippi, wardrobe; Caitlin Plumb of Foley and Lauren Macari of Weston, Florida, scenery/properties; Akelah Carter of Montgomery, sound board operator; and Felix Crutcher of Huntsville, lighting board operator. Student designers are Phoebe Miller of Birmingham, costumes; and Noah Parsons, lighting. Theatre UAB staff complete the design team, with Marc Quattlebaum, properties, and Sean Doyle, sound design.