Arts Club Theatre Company
Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery by Ken Ludwig

Dates & Venue
September 8 – October 9, 2016, Tues – Thurs 7:30pm, Fri & Sat 8pm, (Wed 1:30pm, and Sat & Sun at 2pm) | Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, Granville St & 12 Ave.

Director John Murphy Set & Lighting Design Ted Roberts Costume Design Mara Gottler Sound Design Stephen Bulat Stage Managers Allison Spearin, Ronaye Haynes and Tessa Gunn

Reviewer Christian Steckler

Sometimes, you learn to love something that didn’t turn your crank initially. The opening moments of this new play at the Stanley were, for me, a bit worrying. I felt that the production was going to be a bit technologically contrived, and wasn’t sure I was going to like what was coming. As it turns out, I was wrong.

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery is an innovative venture with which to launch The Arts Club’s 53rd season. International admiration for Ken Ludwig’s prodigious imagination and talent is certainly deserved in this comedic rendition of the classic Holmes story. The energetic and diverse presentation of this work must have tested John Murphy’s skills in direction to the limit. The same must be said for all the technical people - sets and lights, costumes, sound, projection, and particularly those in stage management. Why? From the opening moment, new and imaginative techniques are presented. Projections, various screens and scrims, rich and detailed movable sets, puppets, and sounds are all literally set in motion as five actors playing dozens of characters race to keep up with them. This race contributes to several comedic moments in the course of the performance.

Mark Weatherley is perfect as Dr. Watson, the centre of the action, as it is he who is sent by Holmes to investigate the mysterious death of a Baskerville heir - a death blamed on a fabled monstrous hound - and to protect the inheritor, a brash young Texan delightfully played by Kirk Smith. Alex Zahara gives Holmes a fine balance of decorum and eccentricity for which the novel character is famous. Along the way, Watson and the Baskerville heir meet several wonderfully strange characters, virtually all of whom are brilliantly played by Lauren Bowler and Mike Wasko. Without exception, these actors give incredible, convincing performances. They mix mystery, suspense and comedy in their caricatured roles to the great delight of the audience. Sincere kudos to each of them for their stunning abilities and talents.

It is not common to give volumes of credit to stage management, though without these folks, no theatrical production would be possible. In this case, however, their skills were invaluable in the success of this production. The action on the stage, as I have mentioned, was intensely dynamic with constantly moving sets, screens, projections, and so on. The traditionally behind-the-scenes stage crew were as busy as the actors, both on and off stage, and without their perfectly timed action, the performance could not have achieved the levels of tension, suspense and comedy that make this play a winner. All of the technical designers - lights, costumes, sound, projection and stage crew - deserve high praise for their contributions to the success of the evening.

Celebrate The Arts Club’s 53rd year by enjoying this great production. You’ll love it, too.

© 2016 Christian Steckler