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Who’s the Real Inspector Hound?

Publick Theatre’s Stoppard farce topples fourth wall

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BU’s William Gardiner (CFA’11) (right) plays Birdboot to Barlow Adamson’s Moon in the Stoppard comedy The Real Inspector Hound at the Boston Center for the Arts. Photo by Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

You’ll find William Gardiner sitting in the audience for every performance of the Publick Theatre’s production of The Real Inspector Hound. It isn’t just that the BU Academy drama instructor is enamored of the Tom Stoppard play: as the lecherous critic Birdboot, from there he gleefully topples the so-called fourth wall (the imaginary boundary between stage and audience).

“I’m having a gas,” says Gardiner (CFA’11), a master’s student in theater education, who trades dyspeptic commentary with Moon (Barlow Adamson) in the play within a play, which debuted in 1968. “Considering what I look like, I’m a character actor, and I like employment,” says the balding, rotund Gardiner, who honed his comedic acting chops during a 17-year stint at Boston’s Medieval Manor. At the hands of Publick Theatre artistic director Diego Arciniegas, Hound has been bumped from one act to two, its unannounced intermission a bewilderment to audiences just warming up to being toyed with. But in other ways the production adheres closely to Stoppard’s script.

“Stoppard’s writing is so succinct, you have to honor what he’s written,” Gardiner says of the renegade British playwright who gave us Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and The Real Thing, as well as the screenplays for Empire of the Sun and Brazil. Arciniegas is “an actor’s director and a great actor himself,” says Gardiner.

Strange, unscripted things are bound to happen in a play that’s part drawing room mystery, part Monty Python-esque romp. In the preview performances “we had some false starts, and people didn’t realize we were actors,” says Gardiner. “When they were brought in as latecomers and I didn’t file into the theater with them, they were rather offended.” But for the most part “the audience is getting it and enjoying it,” he says. Other cast members include Danny Bryck (CFA’09), Gabriel Kuttner, Georgia Lyman, Wayne Fritsche, Anna Waldron, and Sheriden Thomas.

One innovation unavailable to four decades of Hound enthusiasts is Facebook. Several of the characters in this far-flung Victorian manor farce have their own pages, where theatergoers are encouraged to comment and ask questions. But the most unexpected of the play’s reach into social media is a blog titled Overheard by Higgs. It’s an outrageous concept because the character Higgs is…well, we don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Suffice it to say that Publick patrons may want to heed Higgs’ warning to “Be careful what you say in the stands.”

The Real Inspector Hound runs Wednesdays through Sundays until September 25 at the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre, 539 Tremont St., Boston. Get more information and buy tickets here.

Susan Seligson can be reached at sueselig@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on Who’s the Real Inspector Hound?

  • Anonymous on 09.09.2010 at 9:27 am

    Georgia Lyman is also a BU alum – CFA’99.

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