BWW Review: HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES at Delaware Theatre Company
Delaware Theatre Co opens its season with THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES. For Arthur Conan Doyle adherents, this is pipedreams away from Benedict Cumberbatch OR in my case, Basil Rathbone (my favorite all time baddest of bad guys in the movies of the 50's).
In this slapstick, farcical vaudevillian staging, the makeover is as dramatic as that of Bruce Jenner. Thankfully, the deerstalker hat appears to give us one thread of continuity.
Holmes (Damon Bonetti) and Watson (Dave Johnson) are summoned to the Moors of Devonshire by Sir Henry Baskerville (Sean Close). All three actors play a number of roles including an endearing cross dresser. One's head must be on a swivel to keep up with their multiple ADHD personas.
The 4th Wall of Theatre is immediately breached as the actors engage the audience in the conversation, explaining they will be portraying an array of characters and the facts (as they are) of the plot. Thus, begins the mayhem of these Three Stooges / Marx Brothers taking us up and down the moors and through Baskerville Hall, into the steam room and whatever implausible scene even more implausible.
Oh, and the eyerolls? Holmes states that 3 boys had died of food poisoning and then suggests,... "you really must come for dinner sometime". Act II begins with a repeat of Act I - in double time - a la the ending of another farce, Ludwig's LEND ME A TENOR. Of course we must incorporate the door slams intrinsic to NOISES OFF, mais oui! I forget why or how a train trip was introduced in the plot, but it was accompanied by musical strains of Ozzy Osborne's heavy metal hit, "Crazy Train". Yes, the authors had a lot of source material to work with and they pulled out all stops!
There was physical humor and sight gags galore. One of the characters pronounces, ..."follow my every move. Walk this way!" Well, of course he starts to walk in a wobbly fashion and the other two follow his lead. (Eye roll). All 3 actors have so many facial expressions Lon Chaney would be impressed. They do physical humor as well. The moving frame was quite amusing as was the use of the dummy (a real dummy, not one of the actors) although its trampling was bit overdone. We got the point a while back.
I am not quite sure why there was a need to have one of the actors promote the entirety of DTC's season as part of the dialogue. The guests have a program book. And even though we get the absurdities, the use of a cell phone jolts the audience from the fantasy of entertainment into the real world. We attend theater for two hours as a form of escapism. Monsieur Picker of Nits has one more observation: two of the actors wore spiffy new shoes. The third man's souliers looked like they were taken from DTC costume storage.
The headline for Director Matt Pfeiffer casting call must have read "Looking for scene munchers". He chose 3 of the hungriest.
Timing and chemistry in a farce is essential. When directors are queried what is more difficult to stage, Shakespeare or farce? Hands down the answer is farce.
The minimal set by Meghan Jones allowed the actors the freedom to innovate and improvise.
Through September 29
Delaware Theatre 302.594.1100