Murder-mystery ‘Game’s Afoot’ right at Holmes at Drury Lane Theatre

Drury Lane Theatre presents ‘The Game’s Afoot’

1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 1:30 and 8 p.m. Thursdays, 8 pm. Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays

100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace

$40-$50; student and senior discounts are available

(630) 530-0111; Drurylane.com

Drury Lane Theatre is known for its elaborately-staged musicals but Artistic Director William Osetek is convinced that audiences will be equally pleased with “The Game’s Afoot.”

“Our audience has always made it very clear that they love a mystery,” he said. “So when we come across a mystery that’s well written, we love to present it.”

Osetek knew he had found a winner as soon as he read “The Game’s Afoot” by Ken Ludwig, author of “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo.” The work, which is described as a mystery-comedy, was selected as Best Play at the 2012 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Awards.

The director described it as a rare find because, “It’s a well written mystery as well as a well-written comedy. It’s extremely funny —and it’s extremely scary.”

The play stars Derek Hasenstab as Broadway star William Gillette, best known for playing the title role in “Sherlock Holmes.” It’s 1936 and Gillette has invited his fellow cast members to his Connecticut mansion for Christmas Eve dinner and a weekend of fun. The festivities take an unexpected turn when one of the guests is murdered. Gillette takes on the character of Holmes in an attempt to solve the crime.

Hasenstab’s diverse resume includes the Broadway national tour of “The Lion King;” “The Foreigner” and “I Hate Hamlet” at Drury Lane Theatre; “Oedipus Complex” at Goodman Theatre; and “Sunday in the Park with George” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

This is Hasenstab’s first mystery. He took the role because, “I love William Gillette and I like Ken Ludwig’s writing. He writes fun stuff for actors to play with.”

Hasenstab has done extensive research into his character, who is based on an actual person. “[Gillette] wrote the play version of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ back in the late 1800s,” the actor related. “He personified Sherlock Holmes for the theater audience. The deerstalker cap and the pipe were choices that Gillette made.

“He’s a very eccentric person,” Hasenstab continued. “He built a castle in Connecticut — it’s a state park now. He was an inventor. He loved keeping up with the technology of the day.”

Hasenstab admitted that the William Gillette he plays onstage “is probably even more quirky than the real Gillette.”

That quirkiness isn’t unique in this show, though, because Gillette’s weekend guests are all actors.

Those peculiar characters include the misnamed Simon Bright, played by Park Ridge native Rob Riddle, who primarily performed in musicals during his Maine South High School Days, including “Titanic the Musical” and “Les Miserables.” His professional credits include “Les Miserables” at Drury Lane Theatre and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Marriott Theatre.

Riddle jokingly described his character as a “young male ingénue, kind of good looking, dumb.”

The actor noted that it’s a challenge “to write a piece where you achieve comedy and mystery— scare the audience and also make them laugh —this play definitely has both of those things. It’s really fun to mix the two together.”

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Drury Lane Theatre presents ‘The Game’s Afoot’

1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 1:30 and 8 p.m. Thursdays, 8 pm. Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays

100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace

$40-$50; student and senior discounts are available

(630) 530-0111; Drurylane.com

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