So, who­dunit? Who gives a Sh... eila?

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Kevin Prokosh

IN 1968, Stephen Sond­heim and his ac­tor buddy An­thony Perkins of Psy­cho fame hosted their first game night called the Hal­loween Hunt that had friends search­ing for clues to solve an elab­o­rate puz­zle.

Ev­ery­one had so much fun that the puz­zle-game fa­nat­ics were in­spired to write the script for The Last of Sheila, a 1973 movie who­dunit about an ec­cen­tric pro­ducer who sets out to dis­cover the iden­tity of his wife’s killer by invit­ing six Hol­ly­wood types aboard his yacht to par­tic­i­pate in a mys­te­ri­ous scav­enger hunt. Although it earned mixed re­views, the pair won the 1974 Edgar Award for best mo­tion pic­ture screen­play.

City stage troupe Res­onator The­atri­cal is the only non-mu­si­cal en­try of Sond­heimFest, pre­sent­ing its own stage adap­ta­tion of The Last of Sheila. Adap­tor Rob Brown has re­lo­cated the set­ting to a re­hearsal hall, where a group of peo­ple have been called by Clin­ton, the slick di­rec­tor/ host who lost his wife Sheila ex­actly a year ago out­side their home in an un­solved hit-and-run-ac­ci­dent. He in­vites five of the peo­ple who were with him that night along with Lee, who was un­able to at­tend be­cause of ill­ness.

Clin­ton hands out scripts with en­velopes that con­tain a se­cret about each of them. The pur­pose of game, which the ma­nip­u­la­tive Clin­ton dubs “the Sheila Green me­mo­rial gossip game,” is to find out who be­longs to each se­cret. What quickly be­comes ap­par­ent is that each player’s true guilty se­cret is as­signed to some­one else. Clin­ton, it seems, has some­thing on ev­ery­one and he will use the fun game as a ruse to dis­cover who killed his wife.

What fol­lows is a real-life ver­sion of Clue, while also bring­ing to mind the movie Sleuth and Agatha Christie’s The Mouse­trap. Of course, there are plot twists, mis­di­rec­tions and sleuthy rev­e­la­tions that should be en­ter­tain­ing but never reg­is­ter much Res­onator The­atri­cal Un­til Feb. 2 at Ru­dolf Rocker Cul­tural Cen­tre Tick­ets: $15, $10 stu­dents/se­niors

½ out of five sig­nif­i­cance. Di­rec­tor Kim­ber­ley Hamil­ton fails to cre­ate characters that the au­di­ence can dif­fer­en­ti­ate and, ide­ally, care about. With­out that crit­i­cal foun­da­tion, the heav­ily-plot­ted cat-and mouse game that is at the heart of The Last of Sheila is much ado about noth­ing.

Hamil­ton tries to help the au­di­ence by in­cor­po­rat­ing an on­stage score­board with the names of the six play­ers but none of the real ac­tors make a deep im­pres­sion un­til long past car­ing. The game that should be afoot is a flop.

The only time that the 90-minute drama made an au­then­tic im­pres­sion was dur­ing a creepy can­dle-lit scene when the cast were all dressed as monks and with their hoods up made them in­dis­tin­guish­able as they hur­ried around the set slam­ming doors in search of clues. It ends pre­dictably with a mur­der when one of the characters turns up “deader than disco.” The raised stakes fi­nally cre­ate some prom­ise of en­ter­tain­ment but it turns out to be a red her­ring and we are no closer to dis­cov­er­ing why the show is un­in­volv­ing. The mys­tery as to the iden­tity of the killers is re­vealed to lit­tle re­ac­tion among the dozen pa­trons in the au­di­ence.

The seven-mem­ber cast know their ma­te­rial but the ver­bal repar­tee needs to be much crisper and de­liv­ered with more punch. There was a de­cided slack­ness to the over­all pro­duc­tion when taut­ness and colour­ful char­ac­ter­i­za­tion are re­quired. There is no mys­tery to pre­sent­ing a suc­cess­ful who­dunit.

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