This review of Sleuth at Studio Theatre Long Island was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Written by Anthony Shaffer
Directed by Marian Waller
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 South Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York 11757
The world premiere of Sleuth was at London's St. Martin's Theatre. After four previews, the Broadway production opened on November 12, 1970 at the Music Box Theatre where it ran for 1,222 performances. It won Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Direction of a Play, and Best Lighting Design. This 1970 play is set in a Manor House in Wiltshire, England, where Andrew Wyke, a very successful crime novelist, lives with Marguerite, his young wife, while also maintaining a relationship with Tea, his mistress. Marguerite has moved out and is now living with Milo Tindle, so he invites Milo over with the explanation that he would like to resolve their differences. Milo asks Andrew to give Marguerite a divorce instead of forcing her to wait five years. Since Andrew has a mistress, he explains he is more than willing to be rid of his wife (in fact, he says, "my wife is an adulteress - actually, she should be stoned to death") but he doesn't want her returning to him after she discovers she misses the expensive lifestyle to which she has become accustomed (e.g. Jamaica, The Ritz, furs, vacations in the Swiss Alps). Since Milo Tindle is only an actor (and perhaps part-time hairdresser), Andrew proposes they stage a robbery of his home during which Milo will steal jewelry worth one million pounds. Andrew says he knows a fence in Amsterdam who will give Milo 800 thousand pounds which he can use to build a new life with Marguerite while he collects the insurance money (he explains he is cash-strapped). Of course, Milo is suspicious it may be a trap and that Andrew might intend to call the police and have him arrested. In the end, he agrees to go along with the plan. To make it look real, Milo sacks the place so it appears he was searching for the safe, Andrew tells him "to make it believable - convincing, but not Carthaginian." In this production, Marian Waller, the director, has Andrew give Milo the combination to the safe, instead of his blowing it up. The fact the robber knew the combination will be a red flag to both the police and the insurance company. Bad directorial decision.
Plot twists and turns follow. Bluffs and double-bluffs. Gunshots are fired. People are presumed dead and are framed for murder. A detective arrives. Tea goes missing. Milo goes missing. Game-playing and revenge are fully embraced. At one point, no one can tell whether what is being said is part of a particular game or is for real. The line between fantasy and reality blurs. Milo denies he likes women and would prefer having sex with goats or even boys. Andrew may be impotent yet a game to save his life was so exciting it almost gave him an orgasm. Milo explains that when he is having sex, he is "in like a lion - out like a lamb." Even though Andrew calls the half-Italian Milo "a kind of a half-breed" and a WOP, he finds him so attractive and such a kindred spirit, he invites Milo to leave Marguerite and move in with him. After all, as Milo said, Italian sausage is the best in the world! Andrew is "obsessed with game-playing and considers murder a fine art." Game. Set. Match? Not quite. But if you play with fire, you may get burned. Milo and Andrew match wits and bring the audience to points of both laughter and suspense as the two men play, sometimes literally exchanging roles on stage, until their eventual downfall.
W. Gordon Innes does a great job portraying Andrew Wyke. He is a fine actor with extraordinary talent. Scott Earles' portrayal of Milo Tindle left a lot to be desired. Since Sleuth is only a two-man play, if one of the actors is not very believable as a lover, as a man who is half-Italian, and as an actor, the production will be hobbled and will seem to drag as your attention is often drawn to that bad actor and his substandard portrayal of the character. Such was the case with Scott Earles. This was simply not the part for him. As for the production, I personally did not find it all that interesting or entertaining. But since Sleuth played for over 2,400 performances in London, you may want to see it for yourself while it is here at Studio Theatre Long Island. The show plays through September 4, 2016 (Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.) Tickets cost $25.00 and can be purchased at www.studiotheatreli.com