Friday, December 19, 2014


by Toby Zinman



by Toby Zinman

Startling moment #1: Dan Hodge, director of Tom Stoppard’s clever one-act, The Real Inspector Hound in Curio Theatre’s new little venue, finishes his opening night welcoming speech and then lies down on the floor.

Startling moment #2: Nothing happens. For quite a while. We all sit quietly and examine the set (designed by Paul Kuhn) which includes all the usual melodramatic Manor House rubbish  (oriental carpet, old-fashioned phone, crepe-draped portrait, etc etc) with Hodge still on the floor behind a chaise lounge.

Startling moment #3: A man in the audience says, quite loudly, “You can’t start with a pause.” Turns out you can. And they have. And off we go.

Startling moment #4: during the faux intermission, the phone starts to ring onstage. It rings and rings. A theater critic in the audience is finally irritated enough to answer it. To his and our astonishment, he holds the receiver out to his fellow critic sitting in the audience and says, “It’s for you.” One of the great transgressive events in contemporary drama.

Because The Real Inspector Hound is both a murder mystery and a parody of a murder mystery, I can’t give away too much, except to say that everybody’s playing it to the hilt: Liam Castellan and Ryan Walter are the theatre critics who get swept up in the drama they are supposed to just watch; Rachel Gluck and Jennifer Summerfield are the glamorous rivals for the love of a mysterious stranger (Steve Carpenter) while Mrs. Drudge (Aetna Gallagher) serves tea at great length. There’s an odd menacing brother-in-law in a wheelchair (Joshua I Browns). And how could the proceedings proceed without the Police Inspector Hound (CJ Keller), who may or may not be the Real Inspector Hound.

Would the play be funnier with more polish? Probably. Would the production benefit from a proscenium stage? Probably. But why cavil? I echo the pompous critic in the  “audience” who says, as he scribbles in his notebook, “here one is irresistibly reminded of Voltaire’s cry, ‘Voila’.” And that, I figure, about covers it.


Curio Theatre at 4740 Baltimore Avenue (New entrance at corner of 48th St. & Baltimore Ave.)Through Dec 29 Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm Tickets $15-$20. Information: or 215-525-1350

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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