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A Christmas Mystery at Carpenter Square

Carpenter Square Theatre’s presentation of “The Game’s Afoot, or Holmes for the Holidays” by Ken Ludwig was a nice departure from traditional holiday theatre by director Rhonda Clark.

Set in early 20th century New England, the play centers on actor and playwright William Gillette, played by Carl Lance. Giving his final performance of his own Holmes play before a holiday hiatus, Gillette is shot and wounded. He retires to his country home with his fellow cast members to celebrate the holiday and recuperate from his injury. Gillette is faced with a real life mystery when a murder occurs in his own home. Using all the investigation skills he can muster, the company is launched into a classic and wildly witty whodunit.

Carl Lance offered a somewhat mannered performance as the Holmes fanatic. He tackled the text-heavy first act manfully; with the advent of the murder, Lance was faced with situational comedy in which he was more adept. Nathan Dunn was a breath of fresh air as best friend and confidant Felix Geisel. Picking up the comedic punchlines and keeping tender care of the timing, Dunn skillfully built upon the impulses from his castmates. Felix and wife Madge, played by Angela Lux, engaged in banter that was severe and fun as it helped move the story along. The clever posturing of fellow cast member and newlywed Simon Bright, played by Erick Rivera, is a highlight of both Bright’s—and Rivera’s—performances. Seductive and playful alongside Rivera was Tiffany Kay Pearl as Bright's new wife Aggie Wheeler. Playing the ever derisive critic Daria Chase, Lana Henson was amusing and unique. Acting as a catalyst for comedy, her presence is one impossible to overlook. Christine Harris takes an engaging crack at police work as the clueless and scatterbrained Inspector Goring, and Barbara Atkinson is the endearingly fussy mother, Martha Gillette.

The play had a consistency to it that added to the individuality of each actor’s performance. The comedic elements of the script stood out and left the audience wanting more. Some minor confusion is resolved only after the mock bows in the opening sequence, revealing the play within a play. There was no lack of set decoration or wall ornamentation, all of it potentially lethal. In the opening blackout, music was used as an allusion to the classic Holmes films, something that helped to establish the Moriarty/Holmes encounter but was not helpful to those unfamiliar with the films. Recordings and electrified voice occurs throughout the play, along with live sound in the form of gunshots, occurring at the beginning and end. The volume of the gunfire was startling but effective, providing an electrifying jolt. Many of the sounds used worked to accent or punctuate the comedic effect of the scene and gave the actors something extra to play with.

If you have a free evening and are looking to celebrate the holidays in a different sort of way, "The Games Afoot, or Holmes for the Holidays" may be just the thing for you. The play runs through December 20 at the 806 W Main theatre in Oklahoma City. Shows are Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays and Saturday evenings at 8:00, with a Sunday matinee at 2:00on December 14. Tickets are available online at or by calling the box office at (405) 232-6500.