BWW Review: Steven Dietz's SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE FINAL ADVENTURE Given Elegant Interpretation at Chaffin's Barn
Daniel DeVault Directs Terrific Ensemble of Actors in Taut Mystery Thriller
Director Daniel DeVault has assembled a stellar cast for the latest production onstage at Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre - Steven Dietz's Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure - who bring the tale to life with enthusiasm and vigor that's leavened by enough humor to keep even the most discerning of theater-goers actively engaged in what transpires upon the magical floating stage at the venerable Nashville venue.
Cleverly staged and intelligently interpreted by DeVault and his cohort of theater artists, Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure retains all the requisite elements that have made Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's intrepid sleuth so wonderfully intriguing since his first appearance in 1887's A Study in Scarlet and has kept him in the forefront of the canon of mystery literature and popular culture ever since. Dietz's script is sharply written (his dialogue has a particularly noteworthy sense of time and place that is essential to a Sherlock Holmes mystery) and focuses its attention on Holmes, the fictional "consulting detective" and his wingman Dr. John Watson, as they attempt to unravel the various threads of an entertaining mystery that is certain to keep viewers guessing until its final revealing moments.
The resulting production, so winningly conceived, is elegant and somewhat spare, which allows for the story to be presented front and center in a way that encourages would-be detectives in the audience to strive to solve the various dilemmas themselves as they witness the action onstage.
Charlie Winton is well-cast as Holmes and a better companion than Michael Roark's Watson would be difficult to imagine, but DeVault surrounds the two men with a strong ensemble of actors who bring the story to life with sophistication and verve to ensure that audiences will long consider the impact of the show and its intricacies. Shannon McMinn Hoppe is delightful as the manipulative and beautiful Irene Adler, Benny Jones is eminently watchable as the notorious Moriarty and Josh Kiev manages to steal every scene in which he appears as the King of Bohemia. Likewise, Gabe Atchley, Scotty Phillips and Lauren Proctor provide strong support as a trio of ne'er-do-well con artists who, in concert with the dastardly Moriarty, attempt to "do in" our heroic duo with their larcenous legerdemain.
Winton, a veteran of Chaffin's Barn productions over the years, effortlessly portrays Holmes with exceptional stage presence and palpable confidence, while Roark brings Watson to life with considerable charm and understated aplomb. Hoppe, stunning in Miriam Creighton's period costumes, cuts a gorgeous figure while displaying a cunning and conniving streak that rivets all eyes to her when she is onstage. Jones' combustible and overbearing Moriarty is great fun to watch, while Kiev - easily one of the most versatile and chameleon-like actors to ever walk a stage in Nashville - manages to teeter on the line that separates realism from sheer theatricality in a way that audiences will love.
DeVault's direction delivers a taut thriller that clocks in right at 2 hours (even with a 15-minute intermission that may stretch longer depending on the necessities of a dinner theater spectacle) and he lights the onstage action with his impeccable and creative designer's eye. Joy Tilley Perryman's properties design, as always, is ideal and on-point (even if the early morning tea drinkers in Holmes' study are holding their teacups aloft without saucers to collect any drips) and Creighton dresses the ensemble with style and period-perfect precision (although, we can't imagine a man in the late 19th century moving about London sans coat, with only his waistcoat for onlookers to see him in). The devil is in the details.
Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure. By Steven Dietz. Directed by Daniel DeVault. Presented by Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre, 8204 Highway 100, Nashville. Through September 14. For details, go to www.chaffinsbarntheatre.com, and for reservations, call (615) 646-9977. Running time: 2 hours (with one 15-minute intermission).
photos by Michael Scott Evans