Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a British doctor of some repute, created a genius of a detective in 1887 known as Sherlock Holmes in his novel “The Study in Scarlet.”
Holmes, though not the first literary detective – that honor belongs to Edgar Allan Poe, the “Father of the Mystery Story” — became an immediate success. Doyle continued to write of his exploits, along with Holmes’ Boswell, Dr. John Watson, in two more stories before the author decided to kill off the detective in “The Final Solution” in 1893.
By popular demand, Doyle explained that Holmes’ death was a ploy in order for the detective to escape the public clamoring for his service; and in 1901, Doyle returned the master detective to the world in “Hound of the Baskervilles.”
This horrific tale of murder and mayhem continues to be one of the author’s most frightening novels – until – it was hijacked in 2007 by the British comical group Peepoloykus who created a three-man show retelling the terrifying story in unbelievably comic terms!
“Hound of the Baskervilles,” the spoof of Doyle’s masterpiece is written by John Nicholson and Stephen Canny with a cast of three actors taking on a myriad of characters. There’s Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Sir Henry Baskerville and a dozen or more others from cabbies to butlers to vampish women to town folk — both evil and innocent – all played by the three actors portraying the lead parts.
Director John Munn has taken over the task of keeping the production moving at the intended incredibly fast pace and adding his masterful knowledge of and feeling for pure shtick to make this production a continual round of non-stop laughter.
Munn also does the non-set design, which consists of a blank stage, a couple of curtained entrances; three chairs and a few carry-on prop pieces.
Diane Runkel has amassed the cheesiest costume design of thrift store clothing she could find to bring true understanding to her task. Aaron Mohs-Hale does a fine light design; Nena Curley does equally well with sound. Alyshia Collins is stage manager with Ana Bury and Theresa Byrd aiding with the many, many fast changes and entrances/exits to keep things from dragging the pace.
The actors are expertly chosen by Munn because of their theatrical prowess and ability to follow the director’s absurd direction which is so silly it ekes out the deepest possible hidden laughter from the audience.
Jacob Tice is a supercilious Sherlock Holmes. Tice has Holmes drifting between deductive logic and idiotic stupidity at the drop of a character. Beside Holmes, Tice does an over-the-top rendition of Sir Henry’s lady love. The actor also bends his 6’ 4” frame to a mere 4” tall butler who cover’s the intimate stage at such a snail’s pace it takes him and his followers an interminable length of time to circumnavigate the perimeter eliciting howls of laughter from the audience.
Kayla Crawford is Dr. Watson. Crawford steps into the part with no question from the audience that Watson is a somewhat bumbling female instead of a somewhat bumbling male in the role. Crawford also plays a few other characters equally as well as she does Holmes’ companion.
Gary Chambers plays Sir Henry Baskerville and everyone else in the production – half a dozen, at least – one loses count. Chambers work as Sir Henry and all the others is equal to his cast-mates.
In fact, kudos to, not only the cast for their characterizations, but to the director for directing his actors along the right path of making this farcical show such plain fun. They all pull it off, with the aid of the stage manager and her assistants; Munn refers to them all as “The Magnificent Seven” – note the pre-show music.
“Hound of the Baskervilles” continues at The Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, just behind the Pierce Transit Bus Depot through October 9, each Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There are two Thursday Pay-What-You-Can performances, September 15 and an Actor’s Benefit performance September 22; both are at 8 p.m.
For more information or reservations, call the box office at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
One thing more – it takes a good actor to be able to develop a believable character, no matter the genre. But to maintain that character while interspersing non sequitur characters with such diverse demeanors – and keep them separate – shows the ilk of a true professional. Lucky for Munn, the Playhouse and the audience, Tice, Crawford and Chambers are three such actors.
By the way, that rumbling under the theatre’s cement floor is not Sir Arthur rolling over in his grave from mortification over what they have done to his chilling mystery; rather the author is shaking the building with his own laughter. Come join the fun and bring the family.