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Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure

a Mystery
CATEGORY :
by Steven Dietz

COMPANY : Theatre in the Square [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Theatre in the Square [WEBSITE]
ID# 3119

SHOWING : August 10, 2008 - September 21, 2008

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Could this truly be Sherlock Holmes' final case? Could the ultimately logical, thoroughly dispassionate detective who has survived poison, pistols and other precarious perils actually be laid low by love for a woman? His arch nemesis, the villainous Professor Moriarty thinks so. And despite the best efforts of Holmes and his loyal sidekick Dr. Watson, Moriarty may just be right. Whenever Holmes is on the case, you're in for a night of suspense, mystery, drama, and a healthy dose of humor. Winner of the 2007 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Mystery Play.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Jessica Phelps West
King of Bohemia Brik Berkes
Madge Larrabee Kara Cantrell
James Larrabee Christopher Ekholm
Dr. John Watson Charles Horton
Professor Moriarty Barry Stoltze
Sherlock Holmes Martin Thompson
Sid Prince Scott Warren
Irene Adler Elizabeth Diane Wells
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Atmospherics
by Dedalus
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
3.5
“The game is afoot, Watson! – and it is a dangerous one.”

With those words, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are off and running (so to speak) in Theatre in the Square’s “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure,” adapted by Steven Dietz from an original 1899 play by William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle, which itself was a stage adaptation of the stories “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Final Problem.” Whew! What a lot of hands through which the same characters and stories have passed! Strangely, like the web of crime constructed by Dr. Moriarty, very little of the final result can be traced back to Doyle’s original stories.

Consider this – The Sherlock Holmes mythos is based on a collection of short stories, each of them a tiny gem of plot and character, concise narratives unified and compelling. Here, two stories are mashed together in a dis-unified amalgam, seams showing, padding added to fill two hours. It’s as if a deerstalker cap has been thrown together with a rainy-day mackintosh – the period is correct but the combination jars.

Consider this – Although this adaptation is better (less “mellerdrama”) than the Gillette original, it’s still as if Mr. Dietz has assembled a checklist of Holmesiana – Cocaine Habit (Check)! Obsession with Irene Adler (Check)! Observational Deductions (Check)! Violin Interludes (Check)! Victorian Atmosphere of Menace (Che … Um, let me get back to you on that one)! It’s as if all the expected ingredients have been tossed into the stew with little regard to their relevance and contribution.

Digression – Has anyone else noticed that Holmes’ “Observational Deductions” are based more on Victorian paradigms and stereotypes than on true deductive reasoning? In this case, for example, his “conclusions” based on Watson’s disheveled appearance have less to do with true deduction than with his preconceptions of married life and prejudices about women. For the first time, they come across like an author’s contrivance.

Consider this – As Sherlock Holmes, Martin Thompson perfectly captures the arrogance, reserve and drive we’ve come to expect. He is the primary driving force of this production. However, when Holmes “plays a role,” Mr. Thompson is utterly unconvincing, coming across as an amateur actor on a bad night. Thank goodness he doesn’t have to do it very often.

Consider this – The program notes describe the Victorian atmosphere as “dark and gas-lit.” And yet, the lighting scheme I saw was surprising bright, front-lit, and non-atmospheric. There was little difference between the day and night scenes in Holmes’ apartment, other than the wall sconces being on or off. When they were on, reflections in the prominent mirror showed there was no attempt made at directional back-light (In other words, when facing the light source, faces were dark and shadowy, when facing away, they were bright and sunny). A motorized effect made lights move across the abstract backdrop to suggest Reichenbach Falls, and it seemed more a product of contemporary stagecraft than of Victorian melodrama. The set was wide open with single flats motoring on and off to suggest various locales, all of which undercut any attempt at creating a credible atmosphere.

Consider this – The Holmes musical mystique is all about the violin. And yet, the sound design here concentrated more on minor-key viola (or even cello) tracks to create mood. I’m not even certain this was a “wrong’ choice. The sound scheme also shortchanged us on ambient “London Sounds” that are so essential to creating that Victorian atmosphere we’ve come to expect in a Holmes story.

After considering all this, ask yourself why the warning sign in the Lobby (“Caution: This play contains Cigarette Smoking, Drug Use, and Gunfire”) did not also advise that “No Ratiocination was used in the Production of this Adventure.”

After considering all this, ask yourself why this particular reviewer still enjoyed himself immensely. It can’t be that I’m a die-hard Holmes fan. Yes, I did manage a trip to the 221-B Baker Street museum when I visited London (I recommend it highly – if nothing else, it will show you how small and cramped London digs were), but I’ve always preferred the sleuths of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, PD James, and John Mortimer (Rumpole Rules!). I’ve always found that Holmes relied too much on his creator’s contrivances (and prejudices) to solve his cases. But that could be 20th-century hindsight corrupted by too many good writers standing on Doyle’s shoulders.

In addition to Mr. Thompson, I thoroughly enjoyed Charles Horton’s Watson and Elizabeth Wells Berkes’ Irene Adler. If the others failed to go any deeper in their characterizations than surface expectations, well, they weren’t especially helped by the script (and none of them were “off the mark.”)

No, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are the perfect “odd couple,” and the pleasures of this production arise from the interactions of Mr. Thompson and Mr. Horton. When they are on stage together, it’s easy to forgive the creaky contrivances of the plot, the missed opportunities of the design team, and the misguided lack-of-focus of the script. They are what matters here, and they are the reason we want to revisit these stories.

And that’s something definitely worth considering.
.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



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