Oh, how does one describe Mr. Holmes? It’s seems like such a simple thing to do, but it’s so terribly complicated. To capture the man’s essence in a review would take too long and ultimately wouldn’t do him any justice. Similarly one could not capture the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles properly, so I’m reluctant to try. Normally one doesn’t want to ruin the plot of the play, but in The Hound’s case I don’t wish to ruin the punchlines. So your best effort would be to go the Pittsburgh Playwright’s Theater downtown and see Kinetic Theatre Company’s latest production.
The play is a follow-up to Kinetic’s production of Sherlock’s Last Case, although the only continuity is David Whalen returning as Sherlock Holmes, greatest detective in the world. This production brings a different stage, a different Watson, and a different feel altogether. While Last Case was humorous but also surprisingly dark, Hound is more of a high-energy farce. Three actors play a wide range of characters with the absurdity of a Monty Python movie. The stage is small, featuring only a few trunks stacked against a brick wall to serve as a backdrop.
I could go on and on about the cast and all they have to do and how well they do it. Whalen’s Sherlock gets to have more fun here, and is still appropriately arrogant. James FitzGerald is excellent as the world’s greatest sidekick Watson, who alternates being the straightman to being a bizarre creature himself, with a few violent tendencies to boot. Connor McCanlus is also terrific, bringing an adorable “well shucks” attitude to Sir Henry Baskerville while playing a slew of other characters.
One would be foolish to ignore the fantastic tech work in this production, because it seems like they have an awful lot to do for such a physically small space. There are so many lights, sounds, scenery flying in and out, and all of it has to time out perfectly to keep things flowing. It’s overwhelming trying to keep track of it all. Luckily one doesn’t have to, because one’s just in the audience. The crew has to keep track of it all, and they do a damn good job of it.
Jokes fly at a furious fast pace, and there seem to be enough of every joke to go around. There are a few cornball jokes, a few overly sexual ones, farce work, costume changes, red herrings, fourth wall breaking, dark humor. It’s a smorgasbord really. You may not laugh at all of them, but you’re guaranteed to laugh at something. Maybe even you’ll find yourself laughing loud while the rest of the audience is going “aww”…maybe….if you’re certain people….like me.
Have I said enough? Have I said nothing at all? Perhaps I’m being vague to create a sort of…”mystery”…about it all. Or really, why spend the time describing one of Sherlock’s more popular tales when I could just tell you to go see the production? And you should do just that. If you don’t like the BBC television series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, good news: it’s nothing like that! By which I mean it’s not boring! (I’m teasing, don’t come at me about your precious Cumberbatch). Do yourself a favor and go see The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Special thanks to Kinetic Theatre for complimentary press tickets. The Hound of the Baskervilles runs at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre through August 7. For tickets and more information click here.
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Categories: Archived Reviews