Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Comic Mystery
Long Wharf Theatre
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Zander's review of The 39 Steps


Brian Owen
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Comic Mystery, at Long Wharf Theatre through March 25th, is rollicking, raucous theater in top form. Written by Ken Ludwig and directed by Brendon Fox, the romp includes innumerable costume changes which are deftly accomplished in a flash by actors and those backstage assisting. The production recalls Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles." Ludwig's dizzying spinoff benefits from Fox's decision to have actors playing to attendees seated front and center and on sides of the theater, too. Fox, to understate, pushes the pace.

There has been a death on the Devonshire Moors late in the 19th century. Sherlock Holmes (Alex Moggridge) and Doctor Watson (Daniel Pearce) gather, initially in London, to try to figure out this case. Three other actors play 30-something roles. Leading the comic charge is Brian Owen, recipient of a plethora of outfits (provided by costumer Lex Liang) and wigs galore (thanks to Jason Hayes). Owen is Dr. Mortimer, Mr. Stapleton, and many more. Actor Christopher Livingston plays, among others, Sir Henry Baskerville who in the Ludwig version comes from Texas, with accent to prove it. Kelly Hutchinson is the woman in the cast who must snap from role to role. She's Stapleton's sister—or is she really his wife?

Watson does some narrating of the play; he and Holmes are not always together on stage. Watson communicates with a rapt audience. Watson does spend a fair portion of his "moor time" with Sir Henry. Holmes, meanwhile, is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. It appears that Watson is dead as the stage goes dark after a one-hour first act. It's fair to wonder how Holmes can proceed and perhaps shed some light on a curse of a family.

Yes, Baskerville is farce. It is also specific and detailed. The production stays fairly true to Doyle's original fiction. Ludwig injects something new from time to time. Director Fox wisely utilizes seemingly every portion of Long Wharf's three-quarter stage and the actors fly down theater aisles and into the wings to rid a layer of clothing and/or slap something novel upon their heads.

If anything, the ante is upped during the second act. Questions abound: will Holmes and Watson accomplish their job? Will a dog make an appearance? Can Brian Owen (who has been previously cast in other Baskerville renderings) summon the energy to make it through? (He does!)

Ultimately, the scene shifts back to London, a more comforting locale for Holmes.

Sincere congratulations are in order for most anyone involved in this show. Without excellent timing on the part of actors, director, and creative production team, this Baskerville could not succeed on multiple levels. For example, dialect coach Thom Jones and fight director Cliff Williams III must have been exemplary. Victoria Deiorio's sound design and original music, and Robert Wierzel's lighting are indispensable elements. Tim Mackabee's set is thoughtfully spare, allowing actors maximum space to race around and about. The five members of the cast are oftentimes removing or adding props as need be.

Long Wharf's Baskerville brings to mind Charles Ludlum's The Mystery of Irma Vep and Ludwig's own prize-winning Lend Me a Tenor. If anything, the current presentation is more zany, more fun—more of everything.

Ken Ludwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, through March 25, 2018, at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven CT. For tickets and information, call (203) 787-4282 or visit Longwharf.org.


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