CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha Players' "Sleuth" plods through two acts with 120 minutes of exhausting dialogue between only two actors. Large portions of the play were like sitting in a detective-fiction lecture series with a professor obsessed with the sound of his own voice.
Replete with an overabundance of insider jokes no one in the audience quite understood and deathlike pauses where laughter should have been, "Sleuth" falls devastatingly short of entertaining.
Meandering through plot twist after plot twist without ever really going anywhere, Andrew Wyke and Milo Tindle (played by Paul Neace and Joshua Drew) drone on and on, crafting a robbery that would finance Tindle's apparent affair and subsequent escape with Wyke's wife, whom we never actually meet but who apparently is so fantastic that the two men must plot an epic jewel heist, faux murder and doppelganger farce for her affections.
The first act drags on abysmally. Slow to unfold and convoluted, it is difficult for the audience to discern what is initially happening between the characters.
The first act finally culminates with Wyke apparently shooting Tindle in the head after convincing Tindle to participate in a robbery that would allow Tindle to support Wyke's wife, with whom Tindle has been having an affair. Confused yet? So was the audience.
The second act does not improve much and relies heavily on some silly and obvious plot devices that I will not divulge, in case someone reading this intends to see the show.
There are a few entertaining one-liners but not enough to hold the audience's attention and certainly not enough to sacrifice two hours of one's life to sit on an uncomfortable pew in a freezing-cold room and suffer through this play.
I will commend Neace and Drew on their convincing accents, and Neace is quite an excellent mimic, carrying a few, all too brief, amusing scenes.
Overall, this is not a show I would recommend. It is too dry and entirely too long. Even for fans of the detective-fiction genre, the jokes get old and the references are obscure. The show runs Feb. 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 8:00 p.m. and Feb. 17 at 2:00 p.m.