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Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

Sherlock's Last Case

Also see Sharon's review of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Louis Lotorto and Time Winters
Sherlockians, in general, are purists. Sure, they enjoy a pastiche every now and then, but any pastiche is, by definition, not a true Holmes story, and it will be held up against Arthur Conan Doyle's standard, rather than judged on its own. Or, as the guy sitting next to me at Sherlock's Last Case put it, "I hope this guy [playwright Charles Marowitz] knows something about Sherlock Holmes." Thankfully, he does.

Described as a black comedy, Sherlock's Last Case takes what we know about Holmes and Watson, and cranks it up a notch to the point where it becomes funny. In this play, as in Doyle's "canon," Holmes is piercingly intelligent, and apparently unconcerned with other people except to the extent they present puzzles for him to solve. Actor Tim Winters gives us a Holmes in the tradition of Jeremy Brett, with a set of mannerisms that appear unintentionally elegant, but indisputably Holmesian. Winters could overplay things for laughs, but he instead holds back and plays a legitimate Holmes, letting the comedy come from the script. Marowitz gives Holmes lines like, "The press invariably scrutinize the hole ... rather than the donut," and the laughs come because Winters reads them completely straight.

Watson may be even harder for pastiche writers to get right than Holmes. All too frequently, writers make Watson out as a doddering boob - completely overlooking that this is a man with a medical degree, who is actually pretty smart. In the canon, Watson is an everyman, who only appears one step behind because Holmes is so far in front. Marowitz doesn't shortchange Watson, and actor Louis Lotorto gets to play a real character rather than a bumbling dufus.

But, of course, this is a comedy - not a straightforward attempt to mimic Doyle - so certain liberties are taken. The Holmes of Sherlock's Last Case is somewhat more of a jerk than Doyle's Holmes - his inconsiderate manner and self-centeredness are emphasized to comic effect. And this Holmes has rather more of an eye for women than his literary model. But, at heart, Marowitz's Holmes and Watson are Holmes and Watson; they're just Holmes and Watson a little funnier.

Of course, the show takes place in Holmes's well-known sitting room (nicely recreated by David Potts, although purists may mourn the absence of a "VR" in bullet marks) and incorporates appearances by Mrs. Hudson (Lisa Beezley, who plays the put-upon housekeeper for laughs) and Inspector Lestrade (Brett Elliott, who does not make the Inspector a total moron).

The plot involves a mysterious woman (Pat Caldwell as Liza, who very nearly out-Holmeses Holmes with lines like, "Do you recall the case of the Vinegar-Stained Hat-Band?"), references to the treacherous Professor Moriarity, and several twists and turns that keep the audience guessing. Perhaps the Colony should not have staged Sherlock's Last Case so soon after Accomplice - Colony audiences taken in by Accomplice might be a little more on their toes for this next comic mystery. But even with the experience of Accomplice as a recent memory, the audience appeared to spend the intermission speculating how Marowitz was going to resolve everything while still remaining true to the spirit of Doyle's stories. Ultimately, Marowitz does not completely live up to the challenge - some twists are predictable and others simply unsatisfactory. But, despite the disappointing ending, the journey is an entertaining one.

Sherlock's Last Case plays at the Colony Theatre in Burbank through July 10, 2005. For information, see

The Colony Theatre Company - Barbara Beckley, Artistic Director - presents Sherlock's Last Case by Charles Marowitz. Scenic Design by David Potts; Costume Design by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg; Lighting Design by Jeremy Pivnick; Sound Design by Drew Dalzell; Properties Design by MacAndME; Hair and Wig Design by Diane Martinous; Makeup Design by Joni Rudesill; Marketing/Public Relations David Elzer/Demand PR; Production Stage Manager Vernon Willet. Directed by David Rose.

Sherlock Homes - Time Winters
Dr. Watson - Louis Lotorto
Mrs. Hudson - Lisa Beezley
Liza - Pat Caldwell
Inspector Lestrade - Brett Elliott
An Imposter - Timothy Zurich
Damion - Carter Yepsen

Photo by Michael Lamont

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Sharon Perlmutter

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