Regional Reviews: San Diego
Ken Ludwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
(619) 238-0043. Remember this number. You'll need it later.
Sherlock Holmes has returned with a vengeance. In November 2014, the U. S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court decision that the Holmes character and stories were now in the public domain, and so we've lately seen a spate of new works featuring Holmes.
The Old Globe has just opened one by a master comic playwright, Ken Ludwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. It deftly repurposes the Holmes tale "The Hound of the Baskervilles" in the manner of Charles Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep. The result is a sparkling evening of entertainment, which has proven to be so popular that the Globe has extended it twice.
(619) 238-0043. You still holding onto this number?
"The Hound of the Baskervilles," is something of a ghost story, invoking the image of a dog-like creature that haunts a remote English moor by night, attacking and killing people who are unfortunate enough to encounter it. Sherlock Holmes (Euan Morton) is called in when the local lord of Baskerville Manor is found dead on the moor after the hound's howls have been heard. It is up to Holmes and Dr. Watson (Usman Ally) to use their powers of observation and deduction to unravel the mystery of the killing, as well as to protect the family heir (Andrew Kober), who has come from Texas to claim his inheritance.
It is usually not a good idea to provide much of the story when describing a mystery, but I haven't given you much of an idea as to why the show is funny and how it fits with Mr. Ludlam's 1980s play. I think the best I can do is to tell you that Mr. Ludlam spoofed a variety of Victorian literary styles in ...Irma Vep, and he did so with a small number of actors who played multiple roles. Mr. Ludwig has lifted that device (besides Mr. Kober, the other two actors playing multiple roles are Blake Segal and Liz Wisan). He has also lifted at least one of Mr. Ludlam's jokes, involving asking an actor to call onstage another character that actor is playing.
All of the quick-change moves get pretty frantic at times (the off-stage dressers get a well-deserved bow with the cast at show's end), but that's what keeps the scary parts of the mystery at bay. The show is very appropriate for most children ages 9 and older, and may be appropriate for even younger children.
Wilson Chin has designed an ingenious set for the in-the-round White Theatre. Hint: the painted designs on the floor mean it will be used as part of the stage; the hangings on the walls aren't just decoration. Shirley Pierson's costumes range from appropriately period to outrageously humorous. Austin R. Smith's lighting design and Bart Fasbender's original music and sound design contribute to the spooky atmosphere.
Josh Rhodes, known to Globe audiences for his choreographic skills, takes the director's hat and fluidly whisks his actors in, out and around, up and down. Don't be surprised if an actor pops up near you or even climbs over you. I doubt you'll mind, as it's all part of the fun.
All of the actors were on top of their game on opening night. Holmes is a laconic character, a point Mr. Morton's performance emphasizes. Mr. Ally focuses on Dr. Watson's ability to be in awe of Holmes' explanations. The other three actors are simply astonishing. There's no better word to describe them.
(619) 238-0043. Figured it out yet? It's the Old Globe's box office number. Better call soon, though.
The Old Globe presents Ken Ludwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery through September 6, 2015, at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, on the Old Globe campus in San Diego's Balboa Park. Tickets available by calling (619) 23-GLOBE or visiting http://www.oldglobe.org.
Directed by Josh Rhodes, with Wilson Chin (Scenic Design), Shirley Pierson (Costume Design), Austin R. Smith (Lighting Design), and Bart Fasbender (Original Music and Sound Design).
The cast includes Usman Ally (Doctor Watson), Andrew Kober (Man Two), Euan Morton (Sherlock Holmes), Blake Segal (Man One), Liz Wisan (Woman One).