If your Christmas season has become packed with tinsel-clogged, holly-infested Hallmark films, it’s time to shake things up with a good murder. A holiday whodunit at the City Lights Theater Company seems suitable for the season. After all, what December is truly disaster free?
The Game’s Afoot (also known as Holmes for the Holidays) written by playwright Ken Ludwig and directed by Mark Anderson Phillips, shows at the theater from November 16th to December 17th. City Lights invites theatergoers to a Connecticut castle in the ’30s—home to American actor William Gillette who garnered fame playing the character of Sherlock Holmes. While entertaining his theater friends on a rainy December night, William discovers one of his guests fatally stabbed. He must channel his role as Holmes to crack the case. Hazardous and hilarious circumstances ensue.
William is played winningly by Actor Damian Vega who brings candor and heart to his performance. This marks Damian’s 8th time working with the theater company. “My favorite productions to date are all with City Lights,” asserts Damian, who has been acting ever since he scored the lead in a vegetable-themed play in the 4th grade—and has since gone on to perform in not only a number of theatrical productions but also in commercials and independent films. “I keep coming back because they really treat you like a family member while you are working there—and once you’re initiated into the family, it’s always a wonderful feeling of homecoming every time you get a chance to come back.”
Damian is joined by a strong cast. Standout performances include Alycia Adame (who thrives in the role of eager and eccentric Inspector Goring) as well as Gabriella Goldstein (who takes the role of Daria and embraces the character’s fatal dramatic bent with such evident delight that her energy is contagious). There’s also Tom Gough who plays our hero’s roguish best friend Felix. Tom’s flustered reactions and impeccable comedic timing are sure to amuse. “[Tom] teaches acting for a living, so he’s definitely a mentor that I study while I’m working on my own character,” Damian says. “Plus, Tom has an extensive background in improv so watching him bring that out in his work has given me the courage to try it in my own.” And the two actors do a great job feeding off each other on stage. “[Director] Mark mentioned that William and Felix have an Abbott and Costello vibe to their relationship,” Damian chuckles.
You’ll enjoy not just the cast, but the castle. This glamorous old-world manor house will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a game of Clue (it even features a secret passageway)! What’s more, there’s a foreboding wall bristling with weapons. It calls to mind those familiar questions: Was it Miss Scarlett with the revolver in the dining room? Mr. Green with the knife in the study? “Oh, we’re nice and cozy in here, but we’re cut off from the world in this horrible storm, and it’s not really that cozy because there’s a dead person in here,” Director Mark comments mischievously.
Set designer Ron Gasparinetti’s attention to detail is also remarkable—from the textured stonework and old-timey radio, right on down to the glowing embers in the fireplace. The extended wood ceiling beams seem to draw you into the stage world. Also take a moment to appreciate the collection of black-and-white photos on the wall—which on closer inspection, you’ll find aren’t family portraits, but the faces of the many actors who’ve played Sherlock over the years (from Basil to Benedict).
Which brings up another point. This play is wonderfully meta—meaning it’s a story that emphasizes the devices used in storytelling. And it does this from scene one: the production opens with a play within a play. You also have a City Lights actor (Damian) who performs the character of William—an actor known for his character Sherlock. What’s more, Director Mark has also played the role of Sherlock in a previous play. This blurs the line between reality and fiction. And the intimacy of this 100-seat theater takes it a step further. The audience’s closeness to the characters makes us feel like we’ve joined them in the room.
Though The Game’s Afoot is a fairly recent script, it’s one we hope to see circulating for years to come.“Many theaters tend to stay with ‘safe and proven’ shows because they know that they’ll get a built-in audience,” notes Damian. “City Lights is willing to take a chance on new work or controversial topics. They know the value of sharing those stories with the audience. Those of us lucky enough to witness that or be a part of that are changed for the better.”
Ready for a glittering comedy mystery during this season of twinkling lights?
Treat yourself to City Lights’ little crime before Christmas.
Tickets and show details at City Light Theater Company