North Coast Rep’s “Holmes & Watson” a Perfect Sherlock Mystery
TR Robertson– It’s clever, a bit complicated, has a plot that twists and turns throughout the play and is a fun romp once again into the world of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher has picked up Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story of Sherlock Holmes after Holmes’ mysterious disappearance after his involvement in a fight, on a pathway above Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, with his arch enemy Professor James Moriarty with both men tumbling over the cliff, plummeting into the water at the depths of the falls. This ending was written in Doyle’s Holmes short story, “The Final Problem”.
Hatcher follows Doyle’s technique of creating a story using Watson’s notes from his journal and as the play begins the audience is quickly swept into the late 1800’s and “the mystery is afoot”. Hatcher has written over 30 plays and 4 screen plays and uses the same technique for this play that he has done for several other of this plays, with actors playing multiple roles in the play. He used this technique in his play, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, a play for which he was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for the Edgar Award for Best Play.
Photography by Aaron Rumley
“Holmes & Watson” is directed by North Coast Rep’s Artistic Director David Ellenstein, who last directed the highly successful “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at NC Rep. This 85 minute play used a single set design, simple set changes with the actor playing Watson on stage the entire length of the play. A riser on each side of the stage provided additional space for pivotal scenes for the plot, the area on stage right used to show the audience different scenarios of the meeting between Holmes and Moriarty’s encounter at Reichenbach Falls.
The basic story of the play, without giving too much away, involves Watson arriving at an asylum located on an island, accessible only by a small boat, to meet with a Doctor Evans, who has sent for him to assist the Doctor in determining if one of the three inmates being held might be the missing detective, Sherlock Holmes, who has been missing for 3 years and thought dead. The Doctor is assisted by an orderly and a nurse. The remainder of the play centers around Mr. Watson’s clever schemes to discover which of the men is the Holmes. His task will not be easy as each man claims to be the missing detective. One of the men seems to know everything about Watson and Holmes, one of the men is restrained by a strait jacket and one of the men is said to be unable to hear or speak. The ending will astound, baffle and leave the audience applauding.
To pull off such a fast paced, tricky and challenging play, a veteran group of actors and an actress kept the audience guessing as the mystery of the missing Holmes unfolded on stage. Playing Watson is award winning actor, director and producer Richard Baird who has been in twenty-three NC Rep productions. Baird leads us through the mystery and is a spot-on Watson impersonator. Running the asylum is Si Osborne, making his NC Rep debut. Osborne has performed in numerous productions, primarily in the eastern theatres of the U.S. His presentation of an ominous doctor who deals with the severely mentally deranged assigned to the castle-like asylum is perfect. You don’t know whether to trust him or not, which is the whole idea for his presence. His nurse is played by Alice Sherman, also making her NC Rep debut. Sherman has also performed in numerous productions around the nation as well as a number of TV and films. Sherman also plays several other key roles for the play. You will have to see the play to see just how key. Playing the asylum orderly is J. Todd Adams. Adams is making his second appearance at NC Rep, he last played Charles in “Blithe Spirit”. Adams role is also a key part of the mysteries in the play. Again, see the play to see why.
The three Holmes’ are played by Jacob Sidney as Holmes 1, a very verbose and excitable Holmes. Sidney last played George in NC Rep’s “Of Mice and Men”. Drew Parker plays Holmes 2, playing almost the entire play in a strait jacket. Parker is making his NC Rep debut. Parker presents his Holmes as a very angry detective. Christopher M. Williams plays Holmes 3, a Holmes who says nothing until the end of the play. Williams is the current Associate Artistic Director of North County Rep. As the play unfolds each member of the audience is mentally guessing who the real Holmes is. You will be enjoyably surprised at the ending, who the real Holmes is and what role everyone in the play portrays.
Ellenstein’s Creative Staff includes Stage Manager Cindy Rumley, Resident Scenic Designer Marty Burnett, Lighting Designer Matthew Novotny, Costume Designer Kim Deshazo, Sound Designer Chad Lee Thymes, Props Designer Andrea Gutierrez, Hair & Wig Designer Peter Herman and one of the most important positions for this play, Dialect Coach Jillian Frost.
“Holmes & Watson” will be on stage until November 18th. Tickets can be purchased at www.northcoastrep.org or call 858-481-1055. Ticket prices range from $42 to $53. North coast Rep is located at 987 Lomas Santa Fe. Drive. Next up for NC Reo is “Always…Patsy Cline” beginning on December 12th.