Birdboot and Moon certainly love to hear the sounds of their own voices — particularly during a performance. These two self-absorbed critics in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound sit in their imperiously rigid boxed seats as a ridiculous murder mystery (think The Mousetrap meets Noises Off) plays out before them. They make ludicrously grand statements about the state of the art and the worthiness of the play, but they mostly just talk about themselves. And then, in a clever turning of the table, the critical duo gets mixed up in the play-within-the-play action, finding themselves a pawn of their own parlor mystery.
Without giving too much away, Signal Ensemble Theatre’s charming production, which opens their handsome new permanent home at 1802 W. Berenice Ave., pretty much hits you over the head (or shoots you in the back) with its idea that the theatre critic of yore is dead. I don’t think that was Stoppard’s intention with the piece — more a wry (and funny) analysis on the profession of criticism and the tired conventions of whodunnit mysteries — but it’s an interesting one. Maybe valid, too — but I don’t really know.
As I sat with my friend who blogs about theatre for ChicagoNow, the irony of the situation wasn’t lost on us. You know: two theatre bloggers watching a show about the death of print critics. How meta!
At any rate, this is a fun and fine production — if a little ham-fisted. At the risk of sounding like Birdboot or Moon, I’d suggest director Ronan Marra dial back the slapstick a notch and let Stoppard’s script do the work. And the show’s “playbill” is one of the most awesome things ever, filled with amazing vintage ads like this one. It sets the stage nicely for the absurdity to come.
“The Real Inspector Hound” plays through Sept. 18 at Signal Ensemble Theatre. More info here >