Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, The Robber Bridegroom and The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde

Park Square Theatre Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure

James Cada, Steve Hendrickson and Bob Davis
As a lifelong Sherlockian, I cringe when it comes to adaptations of Conan Doyle's great work. Apart from a few exceptions (the Jeremy Brett-David Burke-Edward Hardwicke team from the 1980s and '90s, for example), few get it right. Park Square Theatre's production of Steven Dietz' Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure comes very close.

Dietz adapted the play, which won the 2007 Edgar (a top honor from the Mystery Writers of America) for drama, from a work written by Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and famed Holmes actor William Gillette as a vehicle for the performer. In many ways, it was Gillette's performance that solidified the image we have of Holmes (the curved pipe, the deerstalker cap, for example, come from his portrayal).

The play itself creaks a bit, even with Dietz's revisions. Much of the action is drawn from a pair of Holmes stories—A Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Final Problem"—with touches from others tossed in for good measure. The two stories—one about the closest thing Holmes ever to a love, the other about his final confrontation with the evil Professor Moriarty—don't exactly play well together. Dietz tries his best, however, to make sense of it all, even if the seams of the stories are pretty evident throughout.

The production does plenty that is right. Emphasis is put on pace (the show clocks in at a breezy two hours) and sharp characterizations. Steve Hendrickson (who admits to being a massive fan of the great detective since sixth grade) makes a terrific Holmes. Though his characterization is broader and more emotional than usual, it fits in well with the story, which includes a love interest, Irene Adler. As the woman is Holmes' life, Virginia Burke plays Adler as Holmes' equal, first matching wits with him across London, and then—ever so slowly—falling in love. Hendrickson's confusion over these emotions and courtship and Burke's reactions are among the best moments of the play—funny, engaging and poignant in a way on-stage mysteries usually are not.

Bob Davis gets the thankless role of narrator/companion Dr. Watson, who is often reduced to a simple buffoon in adaptations. Davis instead plays the good doctor as the intelligent, solid man he was in the stories—providing advice, assistance and, most importantly, friendship for the lonely Holmes.

Topping out the bad-guy side is James Cada, who brings a particular elegant malignance to Professor Moriarty. And director Peter Moore moves the action along at a brisk pace, never allowing some of the logical lapses inherent in the story to get in the way of the fun.

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure runs through June 22 at the Park Square Theatre, 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul. For tickets and more information, call 651-291-7005 or visit

Photo: Amy Anderson

Minneapolis Musical Theatre The Robber Bridegroom

Carl M. Schoenborn, Jamie Dix, C. Ryan Shipley and Patrick Morgan
Minneapolis Musical Theatre ends a terrific 2007-2008 season with a fully realized production of The Robber Bridegroom. A large cast, which includes familiar faces and a number of talented newcomers, takes charge of the stage in this fanciful musical telling (created by Alfred Uhry and Robert Waldman) of Eudora Welty's tall tale.

Set in the deep south along the Natchez Trace sometime in the early days of the country, The Robber Bridegroom features outlaws, disguised maidens, a conniving stepmother, an idiot helper and a living head in a box. Uhry's script accents the humor, and Waldman's music flies with catchy, southern and country-tinged tunes. A large cast, led by Patrick Morgan as the titular character and Jamie Dix as the somewhat love of his life, Rosamund, take pleasure in every wild moment of the show, and that becomes infectious for the audience. The Robber Bridegroom is the last show MMT will produce at the Hennepin Stages theater (the company is moving a few blocks down Hennepin Avenue to the Illusion Theater space in the fall) and they send out their longtime home—one that has served the company well for several years—in style.

The Robber Bridegroom runs through June 29 at Hennepin Stages, 824 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. For tickets and more information, call 612-673-0404 or visit

The Guthrie Theater The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde

Matthew Greer as Oscar Wilde and Sarah Agnew
It should work—Oscar Wilde is always a fascinating character, and his fall from the heights of London society to prison make for one of the great stories of the late 19th century. And a play that promises to uncover more about the bonds that drew Oscar, his wife and his lover together should explode like a firecracker. Instead, The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde is an opportunity mainly wasted. A dull script—one that forces the actors to spend long stretches of time, on their own, explaining their actions—and a jittery, over-stylized production strips the material of any impact. While Matthew Greer and Sarah Agnew are fine as Oscar and Constance, Brandon Weinbrenner never moves high-class lover Lord Alfred Douglas beyond the level of caricature. I never believed for a moment that he could capture the heart and mind, or even the loins, of someone like Wilde. All of it makes for a dull and frustrating evening.

The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde runs through July 11 in the McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie Theater, 818 S. 2nd Ave., Minneapolis. For tickets and more information, call 612-377-2224 or visit

Photo: Roy Blakey

- Ed Huyck

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