Investigating an Onstage Investigation: A Review of SCDS’s The Game’s Afoot or Holmes for the Holiday

By: Adina Dror  |  December 16, 2018

By Adina Dror

The year is 1936, and William Gillette’s (Chana Weiss) Sherlock Holmes play has enjoyed twenty years of success. Not everyone is a fan, though. As they close for the holidays, someone makes an attempt on Gillette’s life by shooting him during curtain calls. Injured but not dead, Gillette and his cast decide to catch the attacker. Twenty years playing Sherlock Holmes is enough qualification, right?

Throw in two–or is it three?–more murders, a seance, an endearingly inept inspector (Shoshy Ciment), a melodramatic play critic (Tamar Guterson), and a slightly unhinged mother (Emily Ornelas), and the cast quickly finds themselves amidst a fiendish, if hilarious, plot. And there’s no better place to catch a devious villain than at Home Over the Holidays. Will they catch the murderer? And will they survive the attempt? That I can’t say.

I can, however, say that I highly recommend this show. SCDS (Stern College Dramatics Society) does a fantastic job with this tongue-in-cheek murder mystery. They manage to keep one foot in comedy and the other in suspense the whole time. You’ll find yourself breathless from laughter one moment and gasping in shock the next. As a whole, the cast of this show brings these characters to life and lets you feel their drama, without taking themselves too seriously.

The Game’s Afoot takes all the best parts of a Sherlock Holmes story and makes it more fun, as you watch the antics of this zany group of eccentric actors as they try to figure out the mystery. You lose none of the cleverness but definitely gain some laughs– especially in the interpersonal relationships explored in this dramedy. Whether it’s best friends, husbands and wives, or cast mates, the SCDS cast does a beautiful job playing off each other and building entertaining character dynamics. Two people who really shone at this, in particular, were Felix (Eli Azizollahoff) and Madge (Daniella Miller), a married couple who are both members of the Sherlock Holmes’ cast. Their constant banter, and the way they interacted as actors as well as characters made their relationship one of the most dynamic and endearing of the show.

That said, the play has a slightly campy feel to it, without going too far into hilarity that it loses its mystery. The cast reads their characters slightly over the top, but in an almost charming way. If you want a true classic Sherlock Holmes story, however, you should look elsewhere. This play stays true to the idea of Sherlock Holmes but doesn’t approach the subject with the seriousness and dry humor most classically associated with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved detective–it’s too comedic and irreverent for that. This is not to say that the play belittles the sleuth, but rather that it gives the genre a fresh and more playful face. The play, perhaps not for a purist, is more in line with modern comedies–it’s highly self-aware, making fun of itself and many genre tropes. Ultimately, it is more a comedy about a Holmes-esque character than a Holmes story with comic points.

Full of plot twist and asides, The Game’s Afoot has you wondering how everything will come together. Can you solve the mystery before time is out? You’ll have to see it to find out.