Zachary Burrell and Blake Graham. Photo: DDP
Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
By Ken Ludwig, based on The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Directed by Jim Hesselman
A review by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2019, Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
Playwright Ken Ludwig has made a name for himself writing some of the funniest modern comedies of any living writer, including Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo, and perhaps most notably, The Game’s Afoot. The latter was a mystery-comedy involving real-life actor William Gillette (best known for playing Sherlock Holmes on stage) getting pulled into a real-life murder mystery. It was a funny show, and I had the pleasure of seeing it last year at Clarksville Little Theater.
With Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery Ludwig has stepped into Sherlockian territory again, in an arguably more cleverly devised and staged production. Based on probably the most famous of the original Holmes adventures, the play is a quite faithful adaptation that manages to be suspenseful and funny, without mocking or disrespecting the source. The conceit of the show is that five actors that play over forty roles perform it.
Derby Dinner Playhouse is now staging the show, adding one additional actor to bring the cast to six, making for a delightful evening of theater. For those uninitiated, the story presents the Great Detective with a family curse that seems to have returned with a vengeance, threatening to destroy the last members of the Baskerville family in the jaws of a legendary devil dog. It’s a case that takes Holmes and his ever-faithful companion Dr. Watson from the streets of London to the foggy mores of Devonshire in the late 1890s. Homes enthusiasts should be delighted!
Zachary Burrell is the absolute picture of Sherlock Holmes, with his slender frame and angular face evoking the traditional description of the character, while Blake Graham looks less traditional as Watson but makes the character his own. Both actors turn in performances that emphasize the humor of the characters without betraying the spirit of them.
All of the other characters are portrayed by J.R. Stuart, Cary Wiger, Rita Thomas, and Harli Cooper, and the constant costume changes and character voices were a delight to watch. Wiger has fun playing three different Baskervilles and gives each of them a distinct personality, and Thomas seems to be having the time of her life in several male roles, including the irascible Inspector Lestrade. Stuart also is delightful in his multiple accented character roles, especially the butterfly-chasing Stapleton and creepy butler Barrymore.
The set design by Ron Riall is surprisingly sparse for a DDP production, consisting mostly of different levels and ramps but with very little set decoration. It’s understandable given the vast array of locations that must be indicated, but a bit jarring compared with the lavish sets usually on display at the venue. It is enlivened quite a bit by the smoke effects, Alexa Holloway’s lighting, and Rachel Landy’s sound design. Sharon Murray Harrah’s costumes are period-perfect, right down to Sherlock’s traditional deerstalker cap and Inverness cape.
The sheer amount of energy on display by everyone involved is breathtaking, and under Jim Hesselman’s direction, the whole thing speeds along at a breakneck pace. It should delight mystery and comedy fans alike.
Featuring Zachary Burrell, Harli Cooper, Blake Graham, J.R. Stuart, Rita Thomas, and Cary Wiger.
Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
October 2 – November 10, 2019
Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, IN 47129
Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 12 years. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006, and currently serves as their Board President. In 2019 he launched Theatre Reprise with Jeremy Guitterez. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo.