An Act of the Imagination, written by Bernard Slade and directed by Kathryn D. Beall, is typical of British mysteries. It’s a many-layered story peopled with eccentric characters and featuring surprise twists—in this case, multiple surprise twists.
Arthur Putnam (John Pratt) is a successful mystery writer in London. The time is 1964, made clear by the terrific period costumes by Allison Gerst: the bell bottoms and colorful jackets worn by Arthur’s son, Simon (Wyatt Wilson); the smart business attire worn by his editor, Holly (Rasaja Hart) and the wild hippie clothes sported by Brenda (Sabrina Husseini).
Arthur’s latest novel is quite different from any of his earlier works. Among other differences, it describes the affair of his married protagonist and a younger woman in graphic sexual terms. Simon and Arthur’s wife, Julia (Rhoni Lozier) are surprised he can even imagine such explicit sexuality. Julia is particularly taken aback because it’s been years since Arthur has shown much interest in sex. In fact, she can’t remember him being ardent at all.
Then Brenda shows up. She’s a ’60s go-go girl with a squeaky voice that made it hard for me to understand everything she said, but her body language made clear what I was unable to hear. Brenda confesses she’s the model for the girl in the novel, and she and Arthur have been having a torrid affair. She demands a payoff from Julia in exchange for her silence.
It’s not until the end of the first act that the audience is made aware there’s a mystery afoot. Someone goes missing, and there’s blood and an abundance of evidence but no body. From this point forward, An Act of the Imagination becomes a classic whodunit with one unexpected twist after another.
Pratt is totally believable as the mystery writer. His acting is subdued. If it weren’t so in keeping with his character, I’d have thought during some awkward pauses that he was having trouble remembering lines—but that was Pratt being convincingly Arthur. I’ve seen him in numerous heavy dramas, most notably Educating Rita and Oleanna, and this is right up there with his best.
Also turning in top-notch acting are Tom Lockhart as Detective Sergeant Fred Burchitt and Husseini in the dual roles of Brenda and Brooke Carmichael. Local theater patrons might remember Husseini’s Maria in West Side Story as a child actor for Capital Playhouse. She’s grown up and is now a freshman at Pacific Lutheran University. In An Act of the Imagination, she successfully pulls off the difficult feat of playing two very different characters. Wilson seems a little awkward and works too hard to be Simon. He’s a young actor with, I gather, limited experience outside of high school and college productions. He’ll probably develop into a fine actor with a few more shows under his belt.
If you enjoy quirky classic British mysteries, you’ll surely enjoy this one.
(This review appears courtesy of The Weekly Volcano.)
What: An Act of the Imagination
Where: Olympia Little Theatre,
1925 Miller Ave., Olympia
When: 7:25 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, Oct. 27-29;
1:55 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30
How much: $9-$13
Learn more: 360-570-1638 | Olympia Little Theatre