The Herald-Times Review:
Theater production an ‘old-fashioned farce’
By Matthew Waterman
September 27, 2016
Sherlock Holmes is a character with seemingly endless mileage. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story appeared in the 1887 edition of “Beeton’s Christmas Annual.” In the 129 years since, Holmes has been appropriated by an array of artists and art forms, ranging from the 1916 film “Sherlock Holmes” to the popular contemporary BBC TV series “Sherlock.” Sherlock Holmes holds the Guinness World Record for the “Most Portrayed Literary Human Character in Film and TV.”
Ken Ludwig has continued that tradition with a stage adaptation of one of Conan Doyle’s best-known Sherlock Holmes novels, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Ludwig’s play, titled simply “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,” is receiving productions by regional theaters all over the country.
One such theater is Cardinal Stage Company. “Baskerville” plays for two more weekends in the Ivy Tech Waldron Auditorium.
“Baskerville” is an eerie English mystery reconstituted as a breakneck farce. Cardinal regulars may remember the November 2012 production of “The 39 Steps,” based on the Alfred Hitchcock film. “Baskerville” is in that same exaggerated, vaudevillian style. I have no intentions of denigrating Mr. Ludwig’s creativity here, but it’s easy to see that “Baskerville” is essentially a well-executed ripoff of “The 39 Steps.”
So Cardinal has traversed this territory before, but not exhaustively. In fact, it’s a delight to see Artistic Director Randy White returning to this style, which he evidently has a knack for. The scene changes alone, considering their quickness and frequency, are a work of art.
The mystery begins when Dr. James Mortimer questions the cause of death of his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville. It was declared a heart attack, but beastlike paw-prints were spotted near Sir Baskerville’s corpse. Legend says that the root cause may have been a curse that’s killing off the Baskervilles one by one.
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are on the case. The investigation leads them on a wild goose chase. Watson splits off from Holmes to accompany Sir Henry Baskerville, a young relation to Sir Charles who now fears for his life. Watson is forced to play detective in Holmes’ absence.
“Baskerville” is slick and entertaining. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are played by two Chicago actors, Timothy W. Hull and Andrew Mueller. The more than 40 characters remaining, however, are split up between only three other actors: Doogin Brown, Mike Price and Constance Macy. Any time one of those three auxiliary actors exits, it’s often only a matter of seconds before that same actor comes triumphantly rushing back in a new costume.
Hull and Mueller fit right into their roles as the iconic duo of Holmes and Watson. The other three actors display impressive versatility in “Baskerville,” each donning a plethora of hats, coats and faux facial hair as they jump from one ridiculous accent to another. Some roles are quite straightforward, but many are outlandish caricatures.
Much of the credit for the technical intricacies in “Baskerville” should go to the design team. Johna Sewell had quite a task in outfitting literally dozens of characters with accoutrements that can be ditched and switched in a matter of seconds. There are so many settings that one wonders how all of Kevin Nelson’s scenery fits backstage.
Michael Jackson’s lighting design and Mike Price’s sound design create those cliché creepy atmospheres that are essential to any murder mystery.
The mystery aspect, however, is not the main appeal of “Baskerville.” Ludwig’s play unleashes a barrage of laughs from start to finish. This is an old-fashioned farce, through and through.
If you go
WHO: Cardinal Stage Company
WHAT: “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” by Ken Ludwig
WHERE: Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, 900 S. Walnut St., Bloomington
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and October 5-8; 7 p.m. Sunday; 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday and October 8-9.
TICKETS: $14.95-36.95. Available by phone at 812-336-9300 or online at cardinalstage.org
WFIU’s George Walker’s Review:
“Timothy W. Hull plays a thoughtful and evenly paced Sherlock Holmes. Andrew Mueller is the more energetic and active Dr. Watson…Mike Price’s wildly creative sound design helps to keep the comedy coming!”