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BWW Review: THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES at Classical Theatre Company- Provides Many Happy Returns

BWW Review: THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES at Classical Theatre Company- Provides Many Happy Returns
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of Classical Theatre Company.

I was fortunate enough to see Houston's Classical Theatre Company present THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, written by Arthur Conan Doyle (Writer of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes novel series). This production of THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, directed by Melissa Flower, was a wonderful curveball that left me excited for more Sherlock. The presentation and physicality of Act One will have any Sherlockian intellect wondering if what they saw was classic Sherlock Holmes (spoiler alert: it is).

Leaving the theatre at the end, I realized that I missed being able to enjoy the witty text of this play because of its outsized physicality, with less attention to the script. Most routine theatre goers have probably been browbeaten with how "magnificent Arthur Conan Doyle's text is" and how "remarkably riveting it was for its time" in lectures over important 19th century authors, by professors in tweed jackets, resembling Sherlock or Watson themselves. So after being brainwashed-I mean, educated - I was used to seeing productions that relied heavily on text alone. So, we applauded productions that had historically accurate dialects, won

derfully detailed sets and costumes, but which left most of the audience falling asleep about 20 minutes into Act One.

While the active comedic theme did make things much livelier, I did find it excessive and unnecessary towards the end. Straight male characters playing women get easy laughs. The ensemble of THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES brought such a fluid element to the production overall, from simplistic repetition of chair movements, to grid-style walking representing the bustling streets of London. However, the characters were not all evenly played. It seemed that this production could have benefitted from a larger cast, so that the actors wouldn't have had to spread themselves so thin, and could have better perfected one character rather than three. For example, Jeff McMorrough thoroughly inhabited the gigantic frame of Mycroft, yet didn't breathe life into the character of Moran. On the other hand, Calvin Hudson bumbled beautifully as the Landlady (his panto proclivity to play to the audience showed even from behind the 'door'), yet not as effectively as Lestrade, one of Holmes' favorite blundering idiots. Callina Anderson (Kratides, Sophy, Lady Eva) ghosted about the stage and seemed wholly underutilized in all three roles. The heroines ooze vulnerability in Arthur Conan Doyle's stories which jumpstarts both Holmes' and Watson's burning sense of gentlemanly duty to come to their rescue. Anderson portrayed her ladies too coolly on the Classical Theatre Company stage and we were left to wonder why Holmes and Watson even cared. Jarred Tettey frightened as the villain threatening Melas in "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" and he livened up his other three characters, Kemp and Ms. Montague and Loaming. John Johnston riveted my attention as the sleuth throughout the production. Although his English accent seemed a little forced at the start, he stepped into it quickly.

One of the best elements was the venue itself. The small thrust-style theatre, where audience members surrounded the majority of the stage, gave the intimacy that this mystery needed. In fact, the ongoing theme I noticed as far as the aesthetics of the play was the simplicity of its design. Letting the actions of the actors underscore the text is imperative when it comes to Conan Doyle's writing, especially since one can get lost in Sherlock's detailed descriptions alone. The staging was wittily self-effacing as the actors light-heartedly used the props to convey extremely economical changes of venue. For instance, the actors used a blackboard with the word "house" to signal their arrival at the country manor of the blackmailer, Charles Augustus Milverton. (In Act One, kudos were due to the actor who had the difficult task of writing "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" upside down so that it would read correctly when the board was flipped to face the audience.)

One of the more fascinating design intricacies was the choice of pantomiming props (where items like cigarettes and hand guns were pantomimed with pens, and tobacco pipes). These pantomimed moments helped emphasize the moments that needed dramatization. I especially enjoyed the anachronism of using cassette tapes to represent handwritten letters as a thing of the past. Liz Freese's neutral color palette perfectly placed the audience in the tweed-filled drawing rooms of 19th-century London and environs. This color palette allowed for realistic lighting to accentuate the action of the play and the actors' historically accurate and versatile costumes.

This production of THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES recognized Conan Doyle's far-from-dull characters. The physical intricacies that the ensemble brought as a whole really tied in with the whole theme of Sherlock Holmes that we all know: the maniacally active, rapier-witted detective of recent movies. However, this production could have let the text speak a little bit more loudly. Not all audience members needed to have things spoon-fed to them. The Classical Theatre Company's production of THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES will not leave you bored; so do prepare yourself for an overabundance of physical comedy.

THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES opened at the Classical Theatre Company on October 3, 2018 and will continue to run through October 21, 2018. Performances are at the Classical Theatre Company at 4617 Montrose Blvd. Showtimes are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:30 (with a Post-show talk-back following the performance). Please visit classicaltheatre.org or call the Box Office at 713-963-9665 for tickets and information

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