TR Robertson — The latest endeavor at Scripps Ranch Theatre will have you laughing and guessing who will play what role next as the theatre company presents “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery”, on stage until April 22nd. If your love of plays filled with a little intrigue and mystery, mixed in with lots of laughs and a little slap-stick, and actors and actresses playing multiple roles is what you like when you attend the theatre, then you will love this play, part of SRT’s 39th season.
“Baskerville”, under the direction of Charles Peters and Production Manager George Moy, was written by American playwright and theatre director Ken Ludwig. Ludwig is a Tony Award winner, for “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Crazy for You”, and wrote an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and a play for children, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. “Baskerville” premiered at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. in 2015.
Photos by Ken Jacques
The play is taken from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s third crime novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, originally appearing in serialized form in “The Strand Magazine” in London in 1901. For those Doyle aficionado’s it is thought to be his best novel. The novel marks the reappearance of sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, who reappears in this novel after his supposed death. The success of the novel led Doyle to continue with the saga and adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
“Baskerville” involves the detective and his friend, Dr. Watson, who are contacted by Dr. James Mortimer, and are asked to help solve the mysterious death of his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville. It seems Sir Charles, was found dead in the garden of his Devonshire estate, Baskerville Hall. Dr. Mortimer is afraid the sole heir to the Baskerville estate, Sir Charles’s nephew Sir Henry Baskerville, might also be in danger. For the SRT version, Sir Henry is coming to England from Texas, in the novel he arrives from Canada. The unusual circumstances surround Sir Charles’s death stems from finding his body seemingly frozen with a horrified look on his face, hands raised as if trying to stop something and large tracks not far from the body. Surrounding the gloomy moors around the Baskerville estate is the folklore tale of an ominous, blood thirsty hound, referred to as The Hound of the Baskervilles. Using his wit and keen powers of observation, Holmes quickly begins evaluating “whodunit”. He leaves Watson at Baskerville and tasks him with watching out for the safety of Sir Henry as well as inquiring and studying those in and around the estate.
Along the way we will meet a variety of interesting characters such as Mr. and Mrs. Barrymore, workers at the estate. SRT presents these two as something out of a Gene Wilder, “Young Frankenstein” movie. We also meet Mr. Stapleton, an over the top naturalist, who lives next to the estate, and his supposed sister, Miss Stapleton. Later in the play we encounter a boisterous Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Lestrade, an escaped deranged convict who we discover is Mrs. Barrymore’s brother, and Laura Lyons a woman connected to Sir Charles’s past and other characters who pop in and out of the play.
It seems as though the cast for the play should, at the very minimum, be 11-12 actors. But in reality, “Baskerville” is a cast of five very talented actors and one actress, who in some versions of the play will play a combined 35-40 characters. As the play unfolds, the actors/actress will flow quickly in and out of scenes, making quick costume changes, donning a variety of wigs and hats, moving props quickly into place. The result is a very funny version of this Holmes mystery. There are several memorable moments on stage, one being the beginning of Act II as the actors/actress quickly do a summation of the play up to that point of the play, quickly parading the main participants and suspects in a round robin circle around Holmes and Watson as they sit on stage describing what they know up to this point.
Another scene that had the audience laughing was centered on Bob Himlin, who portrayed both Sir Henry and Inspector Lestrade, and the hats he wore. As Sir Henry was professing his love to Miss Stapleton he wore the cowboy hat of Sir Henry and as the Inspector, a London fedora. Hats quickly flew on and off, a change of character as he spoke and a very funny scene ensued. The actors and actress also handled the physical comedy of the play with ease. A wonderful train scene, including the movement of the train had everyone chuckling as Holmes, Watson and Mortimer road to Baskerville from London. Their rain and wind scene was masterfully portrayed as they battled the elements of the moor. Acting at its best.
Three new faces to the SRT stage and two returning SRT veterans comprised the cast. A very classy Holmes was portrayed by Robin Thompson, making his SRT debut. Playing Watson was Michael Lundy, also making his SRT debut. As Watson, Lundy also was the narrator/emcee for the story, making sure the audience could follow what was going on. Handling many of the more outlandish roles (Mr. Barrymore & Selden to name a few) as well as that of Dr. Mortimer and making his SRT debut was Russell Clements. Many of the funnier parts was presented by Bob Hamlin, who last acted at SRT 11 years ago. Hamlin was very engaging as the heir to the Baskerville estate and a Texas cowboy, Sir Henry and the Scotland Yard inspector Detective Lestrade. An audience favorite, with a multitude of roles for “Baskerville” was the only female in the cast, Michelle Marie Trester, a SRT veteran as well as a veteran of many local San Diego stages. Multiple costume and wig changes were handled with ease by Trester as well as her facial expressions for her various characters.
Assisting Director Peters for the production team was Stage Manager Bill Ulbrich, Dialect Coach Vanessa Dinning, Lighting Director Jennifer Edwards, Properties Mistress Sue Givens, Costume Designer Debbie Sullivan, Set Construction Bob Shuttleworth and Sound Designer Steve Murdock. Dinning had the actors/actress using a variety of accents, from over the top British to German to Texan.
A very funny and entertaining murder mystery awaits those who attend. The play runs through April 22nd on the Alliant International University campus in Legler Benbough Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at www.scdrippsranchtheaatre.com or call 858-578-7728. Next up for Scripps Ranch Theatre is the romantic comedy, “For Better”, beginning on May 25th.