Dusty Carter, Joy Callwood, Dan Remaks, Clint Nowicke, John Thwing, (sitting) Terrilyn Fleming & Annie Brundage. Photo: WhoDunnit

Sherlock Holmes: Silenced Night

Written by A.S. Waterman
Directed by Beth Olliges

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

The last Sherlock Holmes story written by Arthur Conan Doyle was published in 1927, yet the character remains popular nearly 100 years later. Guinness World Records has designated Sherlock Holmes the “most portrayed literary human character in film & TV”.

Which means Holmes is open for reinterpretation, most recently being depicted as the older brother of Enola Holmes in the popular Young Adult books and Netflix movies, but I think A.S. Waterman is enough of a traditionalist that their Holmes hews closer to Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett.

The World’s Greatest Detective and his loyal friend Dr. Watson (curiously, here introduced as “James” instead of the “John” of Conan Doyle’s original texts) set off to investigate the disappearance of several guests at a low-rent London hotel in a dodgy neighborhood.

Unusual for a WhoDunnit show, the first scene ends without a corpse. It is less unusual for Holmes to investigate a mystery without a murder, and people disappearing from a hotel might not even be counted a mystery. As Madame Barrows, the proprietor states, “People check in, people check out…” But Holmes also feels certain that a murder is about to be committed unless he and Watson prevent it (only Holmes might make such a claim).

Of course there is more than meets the eye in all of this or why else would we be here? The setting is Christmas Eve but Waterman mostly plays it straight and does not indulge in ironic holiday festivity, but Holmes’ resolution is filled with surprising amounts of compassion and goodwill that seem appropriate for the occasion.

Dan Remaks is a fine, upright Sherlock, perhaps a bit staid, or do I just miss the glee in Rathbone’s eye when he confronts the villain? He is as arrogant as Holmes should be but more laid back than most interpretations. Clint Nowicke is a low-key, appropriately befuddled Watson.

Annie Brundage is a solid and articulate Madame Barrows, giving integrity to a character easily ridiculed or played for cheap laughs. As Phyllida Haversack, Terrilyn Fleming is every inch the lady of nobility holding on to her dignity in the face of adversity. John Thwing doesn’t overdo the quirky mannerisms of guest Lemuel Weasler, and Dusty Carter delivers the best English dialect with a gruff cockney accent befitting his roughneck ex-convict, Morley Sykes. Joy Callwood plays Flora James’ physical maladies with consistency and a steady expression for chronic pain.

Interestingly, the women’s costumes do a good job capturing the period, especially Fleming, while the men are distinctly contemporary in their appearance. Remaks dons the iconic deerstalker hat and (awkwardly) the Inverness cape that Holmes would only wear in the country but which has come to be expected in any Holmes adventure.  

There was a tendency to have characters always moving when they speak, an unfortunate choice for such a small performance space and contradicting the notion that an actor should never move unless there is a reason for it.

The WhoDunnit canon is filled with holiday shows that embrace the kitschier trappings of the occasion with a wink and a nod, so it is interesting to see this new script in its world premiere position itself as a much more subtle and nuanced expression of the deeper and often overlooked meanings of Christmas: charity, compassion, and unity. Without carols, Christmas trees or Santa’s Elves, it gets to the heart of the matter.

Featuring Annie Brundage, Joy Callwood, Dusty Carter, Terrilyn Fleming, Clint Nowicke, Dan Remaks, John Thwing (the show is double cast so these actors may not appear if you attend)

Sherlock Holmes: Silenced Night

Saturday Evenings, Nov. 19 and 26, Dec. 3 and 17, and Jan. 7,

Plus Friday Evenings, Dec. 2 and 16, at The Bristol Bar and Grille Downtown. Also a Special Show on Saturday, Dec. 10, at The Pepin Mansion in New Albany. 

WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theater
Bristol Bar & Grille Downtown
614 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Admission begins at 6:45 pm/Show begins at 7:00 pm

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of Artists Talk with LVA on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.