Game-playing has its allure until it becomes an obsession.
There lies the dilemma in the hilariously funny play Sleuth, which opens Jan. 13 at The Players Theatre in Richland.
The comedy centers on Andrew Wyke, a successful mystery writer who loves to weave dark deception through his novels.
He discovers his wife is having an affair and, as is common among civilized English gentry, invites his wife's lover, Milo Tindle, to his manor in the English countryside to discuss the distasteful matter.
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Andrew admits he would divorce his wife so Milo can have her, but first he wants to make sure she will be taken care of properly because Milo doesn't have much money.
But there is more to Andrew's supposed good intentions than meets the eye. He decides to use some of his mystery writing savvy and tells Milo he should steal some of his wife's jewelry to aid his financial woes.
But that proposal sets off a string of treachery by Andrew fed by his literary imagination, leaving the audience wondering where reality begins and ends.
The Richland Players gathered a couple of the Tri-Cities' much-beloved actors to add even more spice to this Tony Award-winning comedy.
Steve Montgomery as Andrew Wyke and Ted Miller as Milo Tindle play the key characters in Sleuth , each tackling their roles with as much aplomb as Michael Caine and Sir Laurence Olivier in the screen version.
Charles Telfer rounds out the cast as Inspector Doppler.
Director Kristin Lerch vows Sleuth is definitely a theater lover's play.
"There's great dialogue between the actors, giving them both wide ranges of emotions to explore," Lerch said. "During rehearsals, I almost forgot to cut the action to go back over something because I became so engrossed in the story myself."
Montgomery sees his character as a blend of sinister and intelligent literary history.
"If Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Hannibal Lecter had a child together, it would be the character I'm playing in Sleuth ," he said. "In 25 years of doing community theater, I've never had a line load close to this. There are so many twists, the audience may have to take notes, but just enough to keep it interesting."
He also says the first act is packed with all sorts of explosives, guns, knives and clubs. And when Milo disappears, the mystery really begins.
Miller agrees with Montgomery, saying Sleuth is not the typical English-flavored Agatha Christie mystery, though it is packed with all kinds of surprises.
"I was on (The Richland Players) selection committee when we chose Sleuth ," Miller said. "I knew then that I wanted to be a part of it. It's been very rewarding developing the character of Milo."
Lerch couldn't be happier with how her cast tackled their roles, giving Sleuth a different flavor.
"The movie adaptation from 1972 starring Michael Caine and Sir Laurence Olivier is one of only two films to garner Oscar nominations for its entire cast," she said. "Sadly, they didn't win."
The play runs Jan. 13-14, 20-21, 27-28. Curtain time is 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee Jan. 22.
Tickets cost $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors and are available at the box office. The play has a PG-13 rating.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com