Princeton University musical-theater troupe performs at Breen Center

By Patrick Millican ’15

Though its name is a play on the name of Al Gore’s magnum opus (no, not his patent on the Internet), An Inconvenient Sleuth is not insufferably long, nor does it make predictions of twenty-foot rises in sea levels that would be proven laughably false almost immediately. Performed by Princeton’s musical-theater troupe, the Triangle Club, the student-written performance deals with the kidnapping of the mayor of Smalltown, USA, and the subsequent outbreak of crime in the formerly felony-free town. The story focusses on four misfit teenagers, the Treehouse Gang, who fancy themselves part-time detectives and find themselves on the trail of the mayor, who (spoiler alert, which I feel free to give you because the play isn’t coming back) turns out to have kidnapped himself.

Along the way, the musical’s writers poke tongue-in-cheek fun at a bevy of pop-culture tropes. Their morning talk-show hosts Katie and Kathy channel the hopped-up effulgence of Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, while the mayor’s insistence that he made the town crime-free and that without him the city would collapse into Stalingrad-esque ruin, has eerie commonalities with the New York City police department’s recent work-stoppage non-strike to prove how integral has been tough, broken-windows policing since the Giuliani era. Later on, librarians torture the Treehouse Gang by forcing them to identify feminist imagery in the Last of the Mohicans, which should remind any student of the straws at which English teachers frequently grasp in an effort to torture–uh, broaden the horizons of–their students.

If the viewer thought he was in for strictly humorous fluff, An Inconvenient Sleuth left him disappointed. From greed and the profit motive to the conflict over whether the tendency to sin is governed by environment or internal flaws, there was red meat aplenty for the thinking consumer of amateur musicals, which this reviewer does not fancy himself by any means. Counterbalancing this treatment of mature topics was the lighthearted and exceedingly well-crafted libretto, the songs of which proved to be the highlight of the evening’s performance. Outstanding in the score were “Drowning in Sadness,” in which the mayor’s wife begins to fraternize with her poolboys as soon as her husband goes missing; “Chase Scene,” in which a barbershop quartet delivers a very meta narration of the chase scene unfolding behind them; and the cake-taker, “Justice Is Coming,” which involved a line of ten or so male performers dressed in drag as Lady Justice doing a sort of kickline-burlesque routine with concomitantly raunchy lyrics.

This reviewer’s plus-one for the evening, his mother, was floored by how professional the orchestra, singing, and choreography were for a troupe of college kids to have come up with on their own. She, like the reviewer, also particularly liked the closing number, “Everyone Is Guilty,” in which the whole cast celebrated the sinfulness, from venial to mortal, that besets everyone, as well as the moral gray area in which many of our decisions are made. Isn’t that uplifting?