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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
Arena Stage

Also see Susan's report on this year's Helen Hayes Nominations


Lucas Hall and Gregory Wooddell
Washington playwright Ken Ludwig admires both classic farce and classic literature. His antic adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, now at Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater in Washington, demonstrates his devotion to both of these forms.

This rollicking production, directed by Amanda Dehnert, uses stagecraft and ingenuity to bring Conan Doyle's sprawling story—plus a good deal of incidental humor—to the stage with minimal scenery and only five actors. Gregory Wooddell is an urbane, well-groomed Holmes, Lucas Hall a good-natured Watson, and Stanley Bahorek, Michael Glenn, and Jane Pfitsch inhabit an ever-shifting variety of roles and accents. (Ludwig no doubt was inspired by the imaginative British play The 39 Steps, a zany homage to Alfred Hitchcock's classic suspense thriller presented by a cast of four.)

In 1890s London, Holmes and Watson head for the English moors to unravel the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville, part of a family that (according to legend) has been cursed for generations by the presence of a supernatural hound. Notable characters include Sir Henry Baskerville, Sir Charles' heir, a plain-speaking Texan; Stapleton, a prim entomologist and his beautiful sister Beryl; and the grim servants of Baskerville Hall—not to mention spectral figures that appear out of the fog on the moors.

The performance appears off-the-cuff, even slapdash, but is necessarily thought out and choreographed at every step to allow for quick changes and avoid injuries. For example, at one moment Glenn leaves the stage as Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard and reappears seconds later as Sir Henry. Actors sometimes change character and costume in full view of the audience. It all moves at a gallop, touching lightly on one incident before rushing off to the next.

The playing area, designed by Daniel Ostling, appears to be an open stage framed by banks of lights (designed by Philip S. Rosenberg), but the various settings come to life with projections on the screen at the rear and the appearance of furniture (and people) through trap doors, falling from the flies, or rolling in from the wings. Joshua Horvath and Ray Nardelli have created an immersive soundscape that brings the settings and situations to life.

Arena Stage
Ken Ludwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
January 16th - February 22nd
Sherlock Holmes: Gregory Wooddell
Doctor Watson: Lucas Hall
Actor One: Stapleton, et al: Stanley Bahorek
Actor Two: Sir Henry Baskerville, et al: Michael Glenn
Actress One: Miss Beryl Stapleton, et al: Jane Pfitsch
The Man of Mystery: Milo Tindale
Directed by Amanda Dehnert
A co-production with McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton, NJ
Kreeger Theater, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, Sixth and Maine avenues SW Washington, DC Ticket Information: 202-488-3300 or www.arenastage.org


Photo: Margot Schulman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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