BWW Review: Ken Ludwig's BASKERVILLE A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY at Stage Coach Theater

BWW Review: Ken Ludwig's BASKERVILLE A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY at Stage Coach Theater

BASKERVILLE: A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY at Stage Coach Theatre directed by Curtis Ransom is a fast-paced comedy revolving around the famous detective and a curious mystery. A cast of five actors tell the tale that involves more than 40 different characters. Sherlock and the ever present side-kick, Dr. Watson, are played by Diana Holdridge and Don VanPraag. It is a bold choice to gender bend a beloved character like Sherlock, but Ransom made an excellent pick because Holdridge is strong as the title character. Her characterization is terrific in all parts and the know-it-all is still likeable and brilliant. VanPraag found just the right element of the "straight-man" in this quirky comedy as the bulk of the action revolves around Dr. Watson's presence and he also plays the narrator from time to time.

The remaining 38 or so characters are played by Jordan Peterson, Ian Taylor, and Courtney Ransom. The three all have strengths that complement and blend to really make the show clip along. Peterson is fun and extreme and unexpected in his character choices. Taylor is outlandish and absurd with just a hint of vulnerability. Ransom is a master of dialects and characters and comedic timing. It's unlikely anyone has a true count of the number of entrances and exits these three pull off as they shift back and forth between characters. And yet, the changes and tropes never felt like routine or tedious and instead were mixed in as part of the fun. Led by C. Ransom, the whole cast found moment after moment for the comedy.

Given that this story is also a period piece and that so many characters are played by just three actors, costumes were extremely important. Costume pieces were simple but stuck out enough to allow for the audience to follow along through change and after change without getting confused. The changes were fast and seamless or made obvious as part of the comedy shtick. And so a true nod of appreciation must be given to the crew who outnumbered the actors. There is no way the revolving action on stage could take place without a solid support system in the wings. Well done to the lot of them headed up by stage manager Teresa Sorensen! Lights, including the occasional use of a projection system, and a myriad of sound cues added to the show and the overall comedy. The set was simple and the bulk of the show was done without props. What could seem stark and boring actually allowed the action to flow with the constant flow of characters in and out of the many doorways.

It did take a little while from the top of the show for the audience to warm up to this unique style of storytelling. The jokes and obvious comedic choices seemed to fall a bit flat in the beginning, but as the audience acclimated, the response grew and by the end there were multiple moments of pervasive laughter. Occasionally the specific joke choices seemed a little forced, but not all comedy lands the same for all audience members, so that is to be expected.

One particular recurring comedic element, a seeming attraction between Dr. Watson and the male client, felt fairly off for me personally for three reasons. One, it was rushed. There was no buildup from attraction to action rather just immediate action. Which leads me to two, it was awkward kind of actions. The moments seemed physically forced and fixed rather than hilariously circumstantial. And three, because of the first two reasons it didn't feel particularly honest or real in emotion or storytelling. In a play such as this with so many changing characters and obvious comedy moments, real moments of honest emotion can swing the pendulum to heighten all of the action. Luckily there were other moments, ones between Sherlock and Watson and ones between the client and his [other] love interest, that did find those little instances of honesty.

Overall, this is a brilliant production! Comedy and mystery wrapped together well for an excellent October evening out. Unfortunately, this show has closed, but be sure to check out Stage Coach Theater's up coming productions.

PHOTO: NATASHIA RECHENMAKER

ARTICLE: NICOLE STULL

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