Review of Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
By Ken Ludwig
Directed by David L. Yen
For tickets / schedule :
Spreckels Performing Arts Center
Rohnert Park, CA
Spreckels Theatre Company
RUN: September 16 – October 9, 2016
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars
(September 17, 2016)
Baskerville is an outrageous, laugh every minute adaptation of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle classic tale The Hound of the Baskervilles. In addition to Holmes and Watson, a versatile cast of three creates over thirty additional characters, from gender bent seedy Londoners (Zane Walters) to a brashly Texan rendition of Sir Henry Baskerville (Larry Williams). Mayhem is king in this chaotic and terrifically funny staging, reminiscent of the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Equally entertaining is watching audience members unfamiliar with the story gasp as plot points are revealed, eager to find out who the true villain is. For all its silliness, Baskerville stays true to the original story, other than adjustments to scenes for comedic effect, such as a normal conversation turned into hilarity by violent gusts of wind against which the cast struggles to stand.
The setting is created by a simple door and chairs wheeled about the stage, with projections that change using the side table with a stereoscope and cards that match sepia toned images surrounding the stage. The ominous hound looms across the screen until an eventual appearance onstage surrounded by billowing clouds of moor fog and darkness in a dramatic conclusion. Actors use the small stage to full effect, rushing about with well timed energy, and sliding down the ramp for thrilling entrances.
Zane Walters, Larry Williams, and Kim Williams caper and strut across the stage, changing costumes with lightning speed and accents even faster, occasionally playing multiple characters simultaneously, such as Sir Henry and Inspector Lestrade. Not all appearances are fully successful; standout performances include Kim’s Mrs. Barrymore and Zane’s Stapleton. Background characters are utterly ridiculous and therefore hilarious in the context of the scene–the Baby mewling in a hotel lobby comes to mind.
Chris Schloemp as Dr. Watson is brilliant, capturing his intelligence and naive excitement at being involved in one of Holmes’ cases. His friendship with Sir Henry is explored in this adaptation, and throughout the play it is clear they will protect each other in the face of danger. Stephen Cannon has the look of Holmes, but slips rather badly with the accent. In this loose, slapstick production, his anachronistic American voice does not cause the depth of problems that it would in a serious presentation, but it is distracting.
All ages will enjoy this ingenious romp into the world of Sherlock Holmes. Whether your copy of the story is well thumbed, or you have no idea who Holmes is, this will be an amusing evening. Bring your family and friends to Spreckels for a deliciously ridiculous evening of misadventures.