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Ravenscroft, Pendulum Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Don Nigro's play is a Sleuth-style puzzler that scatters more red herrings than a fishmonger in Finland: the handsome handyman at the Ravenscroft estate was recently killed by a fall down the stairs of the main house, only months after Mr. Ravens-croft met his end in the same manner. Were they accidents--or murder? Inspector Ruffing of Scotland Yard has come to question the remaining members of the household: the flighty widow, the manipulative daughter, the circumspect (but curiously attractive) governess, the straitlaced cook, and the slow-witted maid. As the accounts of that fatal night grow more and more contradictory and the sexual tension becomes more palpable, the inspector's confusion and his resemblance to the two dead men alike escalate.

In less exacting hands, the situation in Ravenscroft could easily devolve into mug-and-scream chaos. But director Bill Redding and the cast in this Pendulum Theatre debut juggle the sleight of hand with an unwavering seriousness and razor-sharp timing, providing the veneer of realism necessary to point up the play's questions about what we so smugly call "the truth." The cast members' bios often mention the suburban Theatre of Western Springs, but the actors exhibit none of the sloppy showiness associated with community-theater hopefuls. In fact, many young troupes of less humble origins would do well to emulate Pendulum's attention to detail, evident in the nearly seamless dialects and the technical staff's minimal but shrewdly suggestive designs.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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