|Left to right: Dustin Perry, Erica Goldsmith, Penny Brill, Niles Welch,
Rick O’Daniel-Munger (seated), A.J. Green, Beth Olliges.
Photo by A.S. Waterman.
Reviewed by Keith Waits
Sherlock Holmes is very likely the most enduring character in western literature. Since his introduction by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887 in the novel A Study in Scarlet, no single literary creation has been adapted as often into other mediums or been resurrected through the work of so many other authors. So the first question the new production from WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theater brings to mind might be: What took them so long?
Along the way, the Holmes carried on by others has tackled cocaine addiction, the occult, Jack the Ripper (twice!) and even the Martian invasion envisioned by H. G. Wells. The one thing that, to the best of my knowledge, he has never been is the subject of a holiday mystery. Until now.
The story begins with a brief bit of business about Holmes, in disguise, finishing a case wherein he helps Scotland Yard apprehend an elusive pickpocket. Right away we are given good evidence that playwright A. S. Waterman has a sure understanding of the source material, since the original Conan Doyle stories often showed Holmes occupied in such smaller cases to satisfy his always restless intellect, and his use of disguise is legendary.
The Christmas setting could have been a cheesy, awkward element, but the plot, which involves a series of murders on three successive Christmas Eves, concerns itself more with doing the iconic character justice and less with straining the holiday connection. Besides, what better gift for mystery fans to find under the tree than a new Sherlock Holmes story.
A. J. Green plays the world’s first consulting detective with authority and intelligence, while Dustin Perry was a loyal and dutiful Dr. Watson, sporting the evening’s best English accent to boot. Beth Olliges runs him a close second as the snooty Gardenia Welltower, with Rick O’ Daniel-Munger eliciting the most laughs with sure comic timing and understated delivery as the drunken Dr. Cecil B. Tubbs. Niles Welch was a disheveled delight as the highly eccentric Bramble Strange, and WhoDunnit veterans Penny Brill and Erica Goldsmith round out the ensemble with solid support as a sanguine charity worker and saucy lady-of-the-evening dressed in obvious, but still striking, red, including an outrageous feathered hat. (As in most WhoDunnit productions, this production is double-cast and you may encounter other actors when you attend.)
An intriguing Victorian mystery coupled with a tasty dinner is not at all a bad choice for an evening out (the chocolate cake with strawberry drizzle was delectable), and opening night advanced sales pushed the company into a larger room inside the Hyatt Regency Downtown, so they must be doing something right. And the attention to detail includes a new rendition of the signature WhoDunnit musical theme performed by a scratchy violinist who could only be Holmes himself.
November 19 – December 17, 2011