I went into Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure at the Douglas Morrison Theater, having never read the books or seen another live production and with no significant exposure to the various television manifestations of this literary icon. In fact, my only familiarity with Sherlock at all were the recent blockbuster film adaptations. What many have obviously known for years, turned out to be a pleasant discovery for me as I found myself completely charmed with the man, the myth and the legend that is Sherlock Holmes.
The fascination with this man since his first appearance on the book scene, is no doubt attributed to the original author Doyle’s creation of the Inspector, but in this case clearly the stage adaptor deserves some massive credit too for presenting such a crisp and sharp script. As I sat there it donned on me why this character has stood the test of time and why he has been the subject of so many versions. Perhaps it was an obvious result, maybe even elementary, but I left intrigued very much by the source material and well entertained by this performance.
The visual theatrical eye candy in this show is quite the creative feast. The detailed and cohesive way that the set, lights, costumes, special effects and staging come together to create an authentic and exciting world, is truly commendable. With the exception of one impossible locale (which was addressed admirably, but fell a bit short) and a few late cues, the tech made it super easy to believe that the cast was indeed bouncing about Europe in the late 1890’s. The clear vision in this show and specific traffic patterns established early and adhered to consistently, really help us take in the expansive stage a piece at a time as the story requires. They set it up, pitched and sold it and I gladly, bought it.
The sound was perhaps the only technical element that proved anachronistic. While I appreciated the attempt to bring ambient music to the mix, in actuality the choices came off too synthesized for my taste and the volume overpowered instead of underscored in many places. Unfortunately, I think the sound in this case helped tip the scale a bit more to melodrama than good old-fashioned period mystery. A fine line to be sure, but not enhanced positively by the audio.
The cast was fun to watch as they played the drama as well as the comedy with a wonderful earnest, tongue-in-cheek appeal. Our Watson was an extremely compelling storyteller, impossible not to follow as he moved seamlessly between the role of narrator and active scene member. Sherlock was adorably eccentric and so very brilliant in his portrayal. His delivery ranged from perfectly dry deadpan to an almost childlike enthusiasm, both seemingly appropriate and genuine. Our supporting cast emphasized the “character” part of acting, but again, within the established mood of the play, they fit in well and gave us villains and heroes to hate and love respectively. It took no time at all to get the rhythm of this piece and to know what to expect out of it, allowing the audience to just sit back and enjoy the clever plot twists and rapid fire wit.
The second half dragged just a bit and the end was oddly abrupt, but overall this is a good piece of theater in a space that I’m falling more and more in love with inside and out, each time I attend. A smashing 4 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a fun departure from the normal theater fare. Sherlock plays through March 10th at the Douglas Morrison Theatre in Hayward.