THE BASICS: BASKERVILLE: A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY is a comedy by Ken Ludwig presented by MusicalFare, directed by Randall Kramer and Doug Weyand (there are so many jokes it takes two directors), starring Todd Benzin as “Sherlock Holmes” and Chris J. Handley as “Dr. Watson” with (and here’s the fun of the show) Patrick Cameron, Maria Droz, and Marc Sacco taking on dozens of other roles. There are only two shows left, Friday and Saturday May 18 and 19 both at 8 p.m at Shea’s 710 Theatre, 710 Main Street, corner Tupper (1-800-745-3000) musicalfare.com/tickets/upcoming-events/ Fully appointed bar, a wide variety of snacks, coat check. Runtime: about two hours with one intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: The plot and much of the dialog is lifted directly from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous, perhaps most famous, Sherlock Holmes detective story THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES which you can read here about the American, Sir Henry Baskerville, who has inherited a fortune and a mansion on the desolate English moors, where a fabled “enormous hound” has made a reappearance and seems hell-bent on destroying any future Baskervilles, including Sir Henry.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Shea’s 710 Theatre is a beautiful space (the old “Studio Arena Theatre”) with a newly renovated bar and lobby, and excellent sight lines from any seat. But, with 625 seats it’s a big space that’s hard to fill, so shows typically book it for only four days. And, in the past, four has been enough. (In some cases, four has been more than enough.) But not this time, and that’s why, thankfully, Ken Ludwig’s BASKERVILLE has been extended for two more performances: Friday, May 18 and Saturday May 19, both shows at 8:00 p.m. This is a very good thing. Go online; get a seat; you can thank me later.
Often, when I’m at a play, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better as a television show where I could watch at home in my pajamas or maybe as a movie where the ticket prices would be much less and I could eat popcorn during the show. And, think about all the location shots you’d get.
But, some things you just have to experience live and BASKERVILLE is one of them. Even though there have been marvelous straight dramatizations of Sherlocke Holmes stories (with, IMHO, the greatest movie Holmes being Basil Rathbone and the greatest television Holmes being Jeremy Brett) here the job of both actors Todd Benzin as Holmes and Chris J. Handley as Watson is primarily to keep a straight face while all about them chaos ensues. And those two are bloody marvelous.
But even more bloody marvelous are the utility team of comedic actors Patrick Cameron, Maria Droz, and Marc Sacco in various roles as the elderly servants, street urchins, opera singers, train conductors, Mrs. Hudson, Dr. Mortimer, Selden the criminal, Stapleton the lepidopterist, his “sister” Beryl, Inspector Lestrade, and more, sometimes changing roles only with the aid of a wig or a hat. And, after giving the audience time to settle in and accept the fact that one utility actor will be playing multiple roles, the playwright has great fun with this. If you like to be “in on the joke” in the way that the play NOISES OFF or the musical THE PRODUCERS lets you in on some theatrical silliness, then you’ll love BASKERVILLE.
Doing their part to make the jokes work were Lynne Koscielniak’s bare set (so as not to compete with the actors), Chris Cavanagh’s lighting and sound, Kari Drozd’s costumes, and hair, wigs, and make-up by Susan Drozd.
If you too like to laugh out loud, and I mean really laugh, then this is your play.
I like to laugh aloud and I have been at many other plays where I’ve been one of the few people laughing and I’ve always blamed that on my fellow audience members being stiffs. However, I have been told that if the jokes aren’t working, the customer is always right and it’s the fault of the creative team. Well, here the creative team (including not just one but two directors) is totally on top of it. The jokes land perfectly. So, if you too like to laugh out loud, and I mean really laugh, then this is your play. Everybody had a great time. You’d be a fool to miss it.
Photos courtesy MusicalFare
UP NEXT: A more traditional telling of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is at The Shaw Festival this summer, through October 28, 2018. And mark your calendars now for a five-theater collaboration (“One for All Theatre Productions” including MusicalFare) presenting THE 3 MUSKETEERS at Shea’s 710 Theatre (November 1 – 18, 2018).
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!