BWW Reviews: SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE FINAL ADVENTURE is a Fun Tangled Web of Danger and Intrigue
To kick off their 2012-2013 season, A.D. Players is presenting Steven Dietz's Edgar award winning play SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE FINAL ADVENTURE. The play itself is an adaptation of American actor William Gillette's 1899 play, which borrows Irene Adler from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "A Scandal in Bohemia" and Professor James Moriarty from "The Adventure of the Final Problem." Irene Adler is an opera singer and a superficial villainess in her own right, tempting Sherlock Holmes' typically nonexistent romantic feelings. Professor James Moriarty is the malevolent architect of most of England's iniquitous scum, which earns him Sherlock's admiration for being a completely reserved and ultimately clever man.
Borrowing from the plot of "The Adventure of the Final Problem," Steven Dietz opens the show with the announcement of Sherlock Holmes' death, leaving Dr. Watson, his friend and chronicler, to relate the story of the play to the audience through a series of flashbacks. The plot remains straightforward and lacks who-dun-it aspects; instead, it focuses on exploring Holmes' infatuation with Irene Adler, which begins from hearing her singing voice and grows more intense after seeing her face. This fascination gets Holmes and Watson wrapped up in murderous plot of intrigue and jealousy in which Holmes prioritizes keeping Irene Adler safe and alive above all else.
Christy Watkins' direction of SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE FINAL ADVENTURE is appropriately atmospheric and heavy, while highlighting the jovial nature of the lighthearted jokes present in Steven Dietz's writing. Under Christy Watkins' direction the show always moves in forward motion, but does drag at times in the first act. However, she masterfully fascinates the audience in the second act, allowing the climatic moments of the show to be among the most interesting and entertaining. While I may have been moved to yawns during the first act, the second act kept me poised on The Edge of my seat, biting at my nails.
As Sherlock Holmes, Chip Simmons portrays a Holmes that is extremely intelligent and unintentionally humorous, which reminded me of Jim Parsons' portrayals of Dr. Sheldon Cooper (CBS's Big Bang Theory) and Elwood P. Dowd (Roundabout Theatre's HARVEY). Chip Simmons adds a certain sentimentality to his Holmes as well, allowing him to be more relatable to the audience than other actors' incarnations. Moreover, he is consummately likeable as his intelligence is something he takes great pride in but rarely boasts about.
Blake Weir's Dr. Watson is fantastically loyal and brilliantly realized. Alternating between narrator and character in the plot, he breaks the fourth wall and jumps back into the show's action with ease and finesse.
Irene Adler, played by Katharine Hatcher, is striking and fascinating. Like a good portrayal of Selina Kyle/Catwoman, the audience has a hard time deciphering whether she is good or bad. Katharine Hatcher does an excellent job captivating and entertaining the audience through the convulsions of her character, including her romantic feelings for Sherlock Holmes.
Professor Moriarty portrayed by Ric Hodgin at the performance I attended is a formulaic but interesting villain. The plot twists and turns around this character's ability to manipulate, and Ric Hodgin keeps the audience attending to the plot as he delivers each line or subtle action.
The rest of the cast, consisting of Craig Griffin as The King of Bohemia, Marty Blair as James Larrabee, Leslie Reese as Madge Larrabee, and Brad Zimmerman as Sid Prince and others do respectable jobs with their roles as well. Each of these actors appropriately defers to the leads when needed, adding nice artistic flourishes in the form of well crafted caricatures to Christy Watkins production.
Scenic Design by Mark A. Lewis is functional and versatile while maintaining an excellent double duty of keeping the industrial revolution front and center. The industrial feel is a grand addition to the moody, atmospheric elements and lighting designed by Andrew Vance. I was particularly drawn to the small touches, such as making revolving parts of the stage look like large cogwheels. Another element used to great effect was that the set design and light design worked together to make curtains sheer or opaque depending on how they were lit. Likewise, the lighting effects that were used to convey the waterfall were impressive as well.
Donna Southern Schmidt has provided a fantastic costume design for the show as well. She has created some gorgeous and mesmerizing pieces for the cast to wear. The only complaint I have with costuming is the inclusion of steampunk elements, as it is not supported by the dialogue or action. Also, as not every character utilizes steampunk elements in the costuming, I spent time during the first act wondering why Blake Weir was wearing modern looking leather pants until more characters, such as Ric Hodgin's Professor Moriarty, were introduced.
A.D. Players' production of SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE FINAL ADVENTURE is a fun theatrical experience. As to be expected from the troupe, it is a show your whole family can enjoy together and will keep you gently tangled in the plot's dangerous web. While Holmes' purists may balk at Dietz's script, I feel he is reverent with the lore and changes some things up just to keep the audience consistently surprised and interested in the play.
Photos by Sarah Cooksey.
Chip Simmons as Sherlock Holmes
Craig Griffin as the King of Bohemia and Chip Simmons as Sherlock Holmes