SLCA’s ‘Sleuth’ Doesn’t Play Games

Sand Lake Center for the Arts’ production of “Sleuth” directed by Michael McDermott and starring George Filieau and David Quinones shines in the most unexpected ways. A wordy, virtually pretentious script is tamed by the work of two exceptional actors who read into the humor and class struggle of this Best Play winner running through July 24th.

SLCA arrived at “Sleuth” after being unable to obtain the rights to “The Odd Couple” by Neil Simon. Although this was not the direction that the Center or the creative team initially wanted to take, I am glad that this is the course that was taken. Finding an appealing thriller can be a needle in a haystack situation, but there is plenty of charm and complexity here in what is otherwise a dauntingly dusty script – and that’s due to the talent on board.

“Sleuth” is a cat-and-mouse game of wit and power, spurred by Milo Tindle (Quinones) announcing his intention to run away and marry crime fiction writer Andrew Wilke’s (Filieau) wife, Marguerite – who we do not see or hear throughout the course of the production. Wilke convinces Tindle to stage a burglary, and unwittingly sets up the circumstances of his death. Wilke and Tindle are complicated characters filled with heavy lifting of their own. Wilke’s character is wordy, naturally, he’s a writer – but wordy with assorted accents and dizzying heights of anger and intensity. Tindle plays some other characters in addition to the scorned lover, including the utterly hysterical Detective Doppler.

It is funny to this writer how the strengths of these characters reflect the actors who play them so heartily.

George Filieau is a stalwart. He has a towering stage presence and gleaming confidence that lends itself immensely to the role of Andrew Wilke. Someone who has played King Lear is definitely a person right for this role, and seeing Filieau conquer Wilke is delectable. Of note is the physicality this role takes late in the first act – Filieau handles this gracefully and naturally. He does not miss a beat.

I remarked at intermission to my friend who accompanied me this simple truth: David Quinones is a chameleon. Those who are regulars in the 518 theatre scene might not even consider the thought that audiences have not seen him play the same type of role twice; this is because Quinones loses himself so deeply in the work that he does. You can easily forget that is him. Again, this idea is very apparent at the end of act one where the relationship between Tindle and Wilke comes to a rather physical peak. Quinones reveals a visceral, emotional pain, so real that when Tindle discusses how being in the position that Wilke’s game forced him into “changed him,” you most certainly believe it. I loved how he played off of Filieau’s stoic nature.

Once this train starts to roll along, the audience becomes part of a devilishly good journey. Those in attendance are even rewarded with some very funny fourth-wall breaks. You just need to have a little patience to arrive there. The world of Wilke and Tindle is not one that you can immediately submerse yourself in. This is no fault of the production team or cast – “Sleuth” is an older script that seems worried not about its pacing.

“Sleuth” is, to put it quite simply, a show that you should see so that you can say that you have in fact done so. It’s classic for a reason. While it’s in an accessible place with two actors who do it grand justice, it would be criminal to miss.

“Sleuth” has a run time of 2 hours and 10 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission and will be at SLCA through July 24th. Tickets are available for purchase here.

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