SCDS Steals the Show in “The Game’s Afoot”
If I were to list things that are quintessentially British, somewhere among tea and crumpets, the Union Jack and brutal colonization practices in India would fall Sherlock Holmes. The fact that the character has been done to death is done to death in and of itself — indeed, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective of 221B Baker Street has been subject to over 200 years of take-offs and adaptations ever since he first appeared in 1887’s “A Study in Scarlet”. Since then, Holmes has been portrayed by thespian greats such as Basil Rathbone, Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr. and whoever plays him in “Elementary” (that CBS Sherlock show? Does anyone watch that?).
That being the case, in a time where Sherlock-ian whodunit stories have run the gamut of interpretations and reactions, it is difficult to envision a Sherlock Holmes story that feels… well, that feels its own.
Ken Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot, or Holmes for the Holidays,” is a murder mystery comedy, more similar to works like “Clue” than the classic Holmes story. William Gillette (Chana Weiss), famous for playing the detective on Broadway, invites his co-stars — old flame Aggie Wheeler (Sarit Perl), best friend Felix Geisel (Eli Azizollahoff) and his wife Madge Geisel (Daniella Miller), and simple yet excitable Simon Bright (Hannah Rosenbloom) — to a holiday party at his secluded home, at which point hijinks ensue. And there are a LOT of hijinks in this play, from several onstage murders to Gillette’s nosy mother Martha, played excellently by Emily Ornelas, and they are all pulled off really well.
Speaking of the acting, all of the actresses embodied their characters well, and really brought Ludwig’s hilarious writing to life. Weiss’ Gillette was the quirky, taking-his-acting-abilities-too-seriously actor I had hoped for, Perl’s Aggie was a much-needed straight woman to balance out the litany of crazy from the rest of the cast and Rosenbloom’s Simon was a lovable idiot the whole way through.
Some of the funniest scenes of physical comedy came from snobby Broadway critic Daria Chase, played by Tamar Guterson, including a seance gone wrong that left me doubled over in laughter. Shoshy Ciment’s Inspector Goring was a delight; though the accent felt like it was slipping at times (which I understand — keeping up an accent for a continuous period of time is difficult), she brought a lot of energy to the character. Special mention has to go to Azizollahoff and Miller as the Felix/Madge duo — the pair’s personalities bounced off each other especially well.
Tech-wise, the show works extremely well. The set, designed by Zvi Teitelbaum and brought into existence by Rocky Pincus, has some surprises up its sleeve over the course of the show. There are also lighting and sound effects throughout, provided by Batsheva Lasky, Tara Janof and Honey Rogoff, which elevated the comedy and mystery throughout.
I already mentioned the writing, but I bring it up again because I want to emphasize just how much I was laughing throughout — not just at all the references to Shakespeare peppered in (fun fact: the title itself is a reference to “Henry V”), but also at the snappy dialogue and quirky characterizations. The physical comedy is a delight as well — this coming from someone who isn’t the biggest fan of physical comedy — and a lot of that is owed to Reuven Russell’s expert directing and blocking of each scene.
This is all to say that SCDS has done what I feel hasn’t really been done in a while — they have taken Sherlock Holmes, and they have made it their own. They have not rested on the laurels of “Our Town” from last year; instead, they have made something that I can say is completely different from everything done before. At no point during the show was I thinking of any other Sherlock adaptations or stories; this was SCDS’s show through and through, and they owned every moment. If I were you, I would go see this show as soon as possible, to not only witness a great show, but to see SCDS leave their indelible mark on the history of Sherlock Holmes, right up there with the greats.
Upcoming performances of “The Game's Afoot” will take place on Dec. 17, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m., and on Dec. 16 at 4:30 p.m. To purchase tickets for the show, visit https://scds.ticketleap.com/the-game/.
Photo Caption: SCDS performs "The Game’s Afoot” in the Schottenstein Theater in Washington Heights.
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University