A witty romp at Sherlock Holmes’ Baskerville
The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of Sherlock Holmes's most famous cases but even he might have been a bit bewildered by a breakneck comic production of the tale starring just five actors.
The rapid shifts of scene on a simple set — and quick costume changes as the small cast from Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre swapped between main characters and supporting roles — added up to a whirlwind romp through the Gothic tale of satanic influence, family curses, ghostly hounds and gruesome deaths.
Ian Merrill Peakes's Holmes in Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery was a masterclass in style.
Award-winning Peakes, although an American, captured a particular sort of effete Englishman perfectly — harmless right up to the point they end up in the special forces in wartime and slit throats without a moment's hesitation.
English gentlemen are a tricksy bunch and it never does to underestimate them — as Peakes showed as he combined the role of ringmaster and detective with savoir faire and brought the tale to its denouement.
His foil, Dr Watson, was played with the old-fashioned British stolidity of plum duff or spotted dick by Bill Van Horn, who continued the theme of multitasking by also taking on the role of director for the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts production.
But, as is often the case in Victorian high melodrama, it's a case of cherchez la femme and the sole representative of her gender in the cast wasn't hard to find.
Sarah Glicko played Holmes's and Watson's irrepressible housekeeper, Mrs Hudson, with scene-stealing manic energy and turned in a flighty performance as Miss Stapleton, as well as a bit of gender-bending in another role as a Cockney street urchin conscripted into Holmes's Baker Street Irregulars.
She also played the slightly sinister middle European — or perhaps “mittel Wooropean” — housekeeper at Baskerville Hall, scene of much of the action.
In total, three of the five actors played more than 30 roles between them — not surprising, it's hard to keep up.
The play does follow the plot of the original, cemented in Hollywood history by the classic 1939 movie starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, fairly closely.
The young heir Sir Henry, who acquires the Baskerville estates after the mysterious death of his uncle, Sir Charles, duly escapes death by a devil dog stunted up by his unscrupulous cousin and gets the charming Miss Stapleton in the end.
Ken Ludwig's version marries wit, farce and the odd thrill and it's nothing short of a miracle that so few actors pulled it off — and even included the odd joke about players being slow offstage to change clothes and character.
What appeared to be a sell-out audience at the Earl Cameron Theatre on Tuesday seemed to agree, as the Walnut Street Theatre cast made it all seem so ... elementary.