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Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Maggie Ryan
October 14, 2017

John O’Hagan, Gwen Wotawa, Elliot Auch, Kent Coffel
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Insight Theatre Company is closing out their latest season with a comic mystery that’s familiar in more ways than one.¬†¬†Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery is another telling of a well-known story about a well-known literary detective, but its style is also somewhat familiar, calling to mind another popular theatrical comedy thriller. At Insight, this story benefits from an impressive cast and some clever staging.

The first thing that came to my mind when reading about the structure of this show wasn’t Sherlock Holmes but another popular mystery story that’s been given the comic theatrical treatment, The 39 Steps. Like that popular and often-staged play, Baskerville is staged with a small cast, and with some of the cast members playing a wide variety of characters. It also has some similar staging conventions and pacing. Still, it stands well on its own without appearing merely derivative. The story is based on one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s more well known Holmes tales, The Hound of the Baskervilles. The characters of Holmes (John O’Hagan) and Dr. Watson (Kent Coffel) are central, especially Watson in this staging. All the other characters are played by three performers, billed as Actor 1 (Elliot Auch), Actor 2 (Ed Reggi), and Actress 1 (Gwen Wotawa). The story follows Holmes and Watson as they investigate a strange case involving a murder on a moor bordering a country estate and an old family legend of a gigantic killer hound. The estate’s heir is transplanted Texan Sir Henry Baskerville (Reggi), who gets a note warning him to stay away from the moor. Watson then goes with him to his newly inherited estate to try to figure out what’s going on. Much intrigue, scheming, and hilarity follows, as the various characters and would-be suspects are introduced, and as the plot is further complicated by an unexpected romantic entanglement.

Although this is billed as a Sherlock Holmes story, it’s actually Watson who seems to get the most stage time, and Coffel plays his role with charm and energy. O’Hagan is also excellent as the brilliant but evasive Holmes. The other three players, each playing a number of roles, are excellent as well, with Auch displaying a variety of accents in various roles ranging from Baskerville neighbor Dr. Mortimer, to mysterious and butterfly-obsessed Jack Stapleton to a young informant helping Holmes. Reggi plays the friendly but bewildered Baskerville and a number of other roles, including the gruff Inspector Lestrade, among others. There’s some particularly clever staging involving an extremely quick character change by Reggi that provokes a big laugh from the audience. Wotawa rounds out the cast in a variety of roles ranging from various women involved in the case–particularly Beryl, who becomes involved with Sir Henry–as well as a young boy who helps Holmes gather information in London. The staging involves a lot of quick costume changes, as well as some self-referential humor, and it’s all performed with a lot of enthusiasm by this energetic ensemble.

The set, designed by Matt Stuckel, is versatile and works well for the quickly moving nature of this play. With movable set pieces and a prominent video screen, the locations can be set easily and moved around with speed. There’s also excellent atmospheric lighting by Connor Meers and strong sound design by Robin Weatherall, providing the various affects needed for the situations, from comic to spooky. All the technical elements work together well to help tell this story and facilitate the high-energy, always moving style of the show, as well as the traditional “Sherlock Holmes” look.

Baskerville is a lot of fun.¬† It’s a well-timed and cleverly staged production that provides a lot of opportunities for versatility among the cast members. It’s Sherlock Holmes, but not like you may expect. It’s a memorable way for Insight to close a successful season.

Ed Reggi, Kent Coffel, Elliot Auch
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Insight Theatre Company is presenting Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at the .Zack Theatre until October 29, 2017

 

 

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