For those of us who recall the lovable buffoon Inspector Pratt from last year’s mounting of “Murdered to Death,” there are but two words for you to hear: “he’s back!” Pratt, the antithesis of the intuitive Sherlock Holmes, the antipode of the observant Inspector Lynley and the opposite of master sleuths like Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, returns to the Rivertown Repertory Theatre stage magnificently portrayed by Michael P. Sullivan, who again bumbles his way trying to solve a series of perplexing murders.
Peter Gordon, the British playwright responsible for this comical creation wrote “Secondary Cause of Death” as a follow-up to his first farce. He has since completed the trilogy of Inspector Pratt plays with the final “Death by Fatal Murder” already slated for a production at Rivertown Repertory next year. Sullivan’s bravado and mangling of the English language make his character the very best part of the British farce. It is true that Sullivan has enjoyed major success in a plethora of minor roles. This is one role in which he not only takes center stage, but stumbles his way throughout the entire two acts as the focus of the audience’s attention.
While TV viewers always knew that Lt. Columbo would get his man or that Jessica Fletcher would figure out who was behind the killings in Cabot Cove, attendees should expect that Inspector Pratt will have not even a smidgen of a clue or an iota of a hint as to who is behind the slaughter at Bagshot House. Sullivan is helped along by a strong cast of characters including Reggie Hendry, who has a dual role of Col. Charles Craddock and Cardew Lonfellow. Hendry does an excellent job of playing both characters and the nature of playing both has him making several exits through tunnels and hidden passageways before reappearing on stage as the other.
Jim Chimento as Count Puchlik of Puszcykowo and Andrea Watson as Captain Henrietta Woomer-Cardington play a duo of and Axis spy and a double agent. Their scheme is upended by the blundering Pratt and Lily Tuthill, played by Jan Chategnier. Chategnier, who many will recall from “The Cemetery Club” and “The Last Catechism” turns in a very good performance as an overbearing secret agent who knows more than she will tell.
Other performers of note are Linda Hubchen as Cynthia Maple, a woman who puts on murder mystery dinners, Jaye Dees as Martha Armstrong and Kelly Barberito as nurse Ann Parsley.
Director Butch Caire did a remarkable job of assembling a cast that breathes life into Gordon’s characters. It must have been great fun to bring Pratt back and the fact he will return next year should be great solace to Rivertown Repertory Theatre patrons.
“Secondary Cause of Death” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m through April 3. Call 504-468-7221 for ticket reservations Tuesday through Friday or click here for online reservations. For an additional fee, Benedict’s Catering provides a buffet dinner beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 12:30 p.m.