Sunday, October 15, 2017

A day at the theater.

This afternoon, the good Carter and I drove down to St. Louis, now called "Saint Louise" by the latest reincarnation of Siri, to see a play. Ken Ludwig's stage adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, simply titled Baskerville, has been playing all over the country and this was our first experience with it.

And honestly? It was glorious.

Ken Ludwig's Baskerville, written for a Sherlock Holmes, a John Watson, and three other actors who must play the rest of the parts, is a remarkable play to start with. But when performed by a cast with the talent to pull it off right?

A thing to behold.

At this point in my forty-some years as a Sherlockian, I have to tell you: Adaptations of The Hound of the Baskervilles bore me to death. The story is so familiar that I can't help but get snoozy.

What made this one great was a Sherlock Holmes played by John O'Hagan who immediately clicked into place as Holmes. (Post-play, he mentioned he was going for a more Rathbone style of performance, but his look was definitely his own and fit Sherlock perfectly.) His Watson, played by Kent Coffel, was a solid Watson, as Watson should be. And around the core of those two characters, the other three actors, Elliot Auch, Ed Reggi, and Gwen Wotawa whirled and cavorted through a variety of personas that both brought the story to life and added comic bits that fit into the tale perfectly, keeping the story a true Holmes story and not heading full steam into farce.

(The good Carter noted that she didn't think an adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles with comedy was possible before this . . . then remembered the Dudley Moore Hound. I reminded her that that didn't really count as a comedy, despite my late neighbor's consideration of it as such.)

Gwen Wotawa went from Mrs. Hudson to Cartwright (now an Irregular) to a gender-swapped version of cabbie John Clayton (a favorite of many a Peoria Sherlockian) to Beryl Stapleton, adding a lively spark to each character that was much enjoyed. Elliot Auch's prancing Jack Stapleton was the definite stand-out of his over a dozen characters, which also included such notable performances as his Dr. Mortimer, portrait of Hugo Baskerville, and Barrymore. Converting Henry Baskerville from Canadian to Texan made sense for the play, and Ed Reggi took that part, as well as Lestrade, Sir Hugo . . . and most notably, Daisy, the non-Canonical Baker Street housemaid . . . and made it great fun.

It had been quite a while since I'd been to a play done so well as this one, totally absorbing me with it's pace and performance, and we had a delightful afternoon with it. Director Maggie Ryan and the Insight Theater Company deserve much applause for putting Baskerville together, and I hope it does great box office during the rest of its run.

(Added note: New author Rob Nunn was in the lobby signing copies of his book The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street, and I picked one up. I had hoped to hang out with Rob for a while, but he had to do some podcast interview that I'll have to track down eventually.)


  1. As if in Bizarro World, I too drove down to Orlando, "O-Town" not "Saint Louise", today to view a comedy version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles". Ah, but this happened to be “The Hound of the Baskervilles” version unleashed by the British authors Steven Canny and John Nicholson. It had a trio of fine actors playing all the parts, Steven Lane as Holmes/Stapleton/Cecile, Simon Needham as Watson/Yokel and Chris Crawford as Sir Henry/Charles/Mortimer. Different play same review, quoting Mr. Bobby Roode, "It was glorious" too! Other than Rob Nunn not being in the lobby, and 3 actors instead of 5, and the different playwrights, our experience was bizarrely similar to yours. (As the good Miss Macy noted that she didn't think an adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles with comedy was possible before this . . . and I agreed telling her of the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore Hound film disaster). To sum it up, and not ramble on repeating your similar experience any longer, I would describe this production as "The Marx Brothers Do Doyle", which is hefty praise from a Marx Brothers fanatic! Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" is certainly on my to do list, and seems to be playing everywhere these days, which you surely are aware of from following my twitter line. Brad, if you haven't seen the Steven Canny and John Nicholson version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles", be sure to put it on your list, I guarantee you will love it.