BWW Review: BASKERVILLE: A SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY at Des Moines Playhouse-The Game is Afoot!
The game is afoot at the Des Moines Playhouse as they continue with their 100th season. This weekend they opened Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" and the audience was eager and Ready to Play along. While familiarity with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles" will help with some of the humor for the show, it is not necessary. There are plenty of laughs to be had during this show.
If you aren't familiar with "The Hound of the Baskervilles", there are over 40 characters in the story. In "Baskerville", all the characters are played successfully by 5 actors. Yes, that is right, 5. The cast does an amazing job balancing all these roles. One of the biggest changes from the Sherlock Holmes story was that Holmes is played by a female, and is female in the show. Patricia Holly did a great job tackling the role of Homes, and all the intricate quirks you expect from the character. I also have to give credit to Michael Fox, who in his playhouse debut, does a great job of carrying the show as Doctor Watson. I found myself looking forward to the sections of the show where he would break the forth wall and narrate what was happening in the story to the audience. Both Holly and Fox are balanced well with their fellow cast mates Jenner Lathrop, Lorenzo Sandoval, and Kerrie Lee, who do an amazing job playing all the other characters in the show. It amazed me how quickly each of them had to change from character to character. It played into the humor of the show. Some of my favorite character changes happened as they would break the forth wall, or sometimes change characters right on stage.
With as many scene changes that happen, I need to give credit to set designer, Nicholas Asmundson. I appreciated that he was very thoughtful about what was needed on stage in each scene. By having very a few pieces on stage in each scene, it made it easy for the many set changes to be done quickly and not slow down the show. And each piece was distinctive enough that as an audience member you could tell exactly where you were at in each scene.
Just like Sherlock Homes, this show had a few quirks that stood out. The fist quirk was in the costuming. Overall, costume designer Angela Lampe did a great job with costuming each character and chose costumes that could be changed quickly. Many of them added tremendously to characters in the show. The one costume that stood out to me was Doctor Watson's. What was so quirky about it? His coat had this shiny bright blue lining in it. And it showed multiple times during the show. At first, I thought maybe he had a quick costume change that it would play into, or there was a line about it in the show, but there never was. It just ended up being a distraction.
The other quirk, with the show was the projections. For me, the projections seemed out of focus. They start off with a Backdrop that all I could read on it was Sherlock Holmes and Chapter 1. There was more writing in the projection, but none of it was readable, which bothered me. It may have been intentional, but I spent the time leading up to the show trying to read it. I also felt that the projections ended up being more of a distraction to the show than something that added to the show. Had they been more focused and purposeful, I think they would have blended well into the show.
Overall, I had a great time seeing "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" at Des Moines Playhouse, and would recommend if you don't have a ticket that you hurry up and get one before this production sells out. "Baskerville: A Sherlock Homes Mystery" runs through February 10. Performances are 7:30 PM Wednesdays-Saturdays with a 2:00 PM Matinee on Sundays.
Photos by Steve Gibbons.