Review: The Renowned Detective Returns in Style to Theatre 40 in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE JERSEY LILY
Unlike other plays with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's beloved detective at its center, SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE JERSEY LILY written by Katie Forgette, includes bits and pieces of reality in the mix of characters. The famous actress Lillie Langtry is the focus of Holmes' investigation, which also includes the participation of arch villain Professor Moriarty as well as Oscar Wilde, the famous Victorian playwright, who epigrams, as well as a fragment of a scene from "The Importance of Being Earnest," give color and freshness to this thriller comedy. And in the hands of skilled director Jules Aaron, whose direction allows his actors to convey each character so thoroughly, you will be drawn into their plight and scheming while hoping everything works out in the end.
The plot thickens when England's greatest actress and National Treasure Lillie Langtry becomes the target of blackmail in a sex scandal that threatens to bring down the British monarchy. Portrayed with great flair and a twinkle in her eye by Melissa Collins, dressed in delightfully elegant costumes by Michèle Young, she reaches out to three men who team up in an attempt to thwart the foul misdeed: The Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes (Martin Thompson); his friend, John H. Watson, M.D. (John Wallace Combs); and the flamboyant and always hungry playwright, Oscar Wilde (Scott Facher). Can these three succeed in stopping the arch-villain when Scotland Yard cannot?
But of course, they eventually discover the perpetrator of this extortion is the vilest fiend ever to walk the streets of London, Professor Moriarty, portrayed by Dave Buzzotta, whose boldly streaked hair signals the evil lurking in his soul. And how is the housekeeper (Alison Blanchard, again mastering the art of character portrayal in two roles) involved in the mix? And who is this handsome man Smythe (Shawn Savage) who pays visits to her in secret?
And how is Queen Victoria's Indian confidante, Abdul Karim (Anibal Silveyra), able to assist in keeping the approaching scandal from breaking? And how will those fencing foils hanging on the wall play such an important turning point in the plot? What about that necklace containing many Crown jewels in Lillie's possession? Just what deep dark secret is the lovely actress hiding from Holmes? Certainly I am not going to spoil the fun and tell you!
While I am not a diehard Sherlock Holmes fan as so many others are, I can tell you that the stylistic finesse with which that character is portrayed by Martin Thompson draws me into every play in which he appears. His assumed British accent is so perfect, you will truly believe that Thompson, with his refined physical carriage and "man about town" demeanor, really is a Brit. In fact, the former New Yorker now based in Los Angeles is no stranger to portraying the iconic detective and is listed as an official "Sherlock Holmes Actor" with the International Sherlock Holmes Society of Great Britain. And what a glorious bonus in this one, as the chameleon actor even gets to cross dress in a scene, generating riotous laughter at his entrance!
It is very apparent the entire cast is having tons of fun in their roles and being onstage with each other. No doubt their skill, combined with director Aaron's willingness to allow such well-defined characters to freely develop during the rehearsal process, will keep you riveted as you try to figure it out on your own.
And a tip of the hat goes to set designer Jeff G. Rack whose intricate design perfectly transforms between scenes in the hands of the skilled stage management team into the many locales needed for the ever-unfolding plot. Along with the award-winning team of lighting designer Ric Zimmerman and sound designer Joseph "Sloe" Slawinski, the overall effect creates both the necessary air of mystery and a real sense of always-impending doom demanding the attention of the most-beloved and brilliant detective to grace a stage! Holmes fans, rejoice! The game's afoot!
The Los Angeles premiere engagement of Katie Forgette's mystery/thriller SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE JERSEY LILY, directed by Jules Aaron and produced by David Hunt Stafford for Theatre 40 in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, runs through December 17, 2017 on Thurs.- Fri.-Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 2:00. Also, Mondays at 8:00 p.m. on December 4 and December 11. Dark on November 23 and November 24 (Thanksgiving). Reserved seats are $30, available by calling (310) 364-0535 or online at www.theatre40.org. Theatre 40 is Beverly Hills' professional theatre company located on the campus of Beverly Hills High School, with ample free parking available in the lot adjacent to the theater entrance.
Photo credit: Ed Krieger