by Terrance Mc Arthur
Fog and mist from the windswept moors rolling in through an open door.
A howl in the night.
Red, glowing eyes.
It must be…The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Grab your magnifying glass, your deerstalker hat, and your Inverness cape (none of which will be seen on stage) and track the beast to the Good Company Players’ 2nd Space Theatre for the Tim Kelly adaptation of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle classic.
There’s a curse on the Baskervilles, a history of mysterious deaths, accompanied by a legendary canine with eyes of flame. The noble owner of Baskerville Hall is dead, and a concerned neighbor (Karan Johnson) asks an old friend from her hospital days, Dr. Watson (Henry Montelongo), to bring his famous friend Sherlock Holmes (Gordon Moore) to protect the new Master of the Hall (Alex Vaux) from danger, be it supernatural or mortal.
The Great Investigator finds the old family servants (Jeff Dinmore, Julia Reimer), a part-time maid (Suzanne Grazyna), a butterfly-chasing former educator and his sister (Chase Stubblefield, Jessica Knotts), and a disowned woman making her own way in the world (Marikah Christine Leal). He also finds reports of an escaped criminal in the area, and boggy moors that can swallow whole ponies in the mire.
Can Holmes solve the riddle of the deadly hound? Will Sir Henry fall to the family curse? Why are lights waving in the night as a signal? What are the true clues, and what are the false trails?
Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller, Jeremy Brett, Christopher Lee, Michael Caine, Peter Cushing, Peter O’Toole, Roger Moore, Stewart Granger, Matt Frewer, Basil Rathbone… The list of actors who have played Sherlock Holmes goes on and on. Gordon Moore gives us a studious detective, capable of strenuous adventures, who can recognize a newspaper’s type font at a glance. He keeps his signature eyebrows in check, seldom letting a smile flit across his face. Although costume designer Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed avoided the clothes most associated with the character, Moore cuts a dashing, dapper figure.
Montelongo is blustery (in a kind way) as Watson. He’s big, but not imposing, slightly perplexed when Holmes leaves the doctor to protect Baskerville and investigate on his own. A major part of the play is Watson without Holmes, but it’s that way in the original story. What is not the same is a major twist to the solution, which I think creates a more satisfying manipulation of the facts than Doyle provided in 1902.
Johnson, as Lady Agatha, is another variation on the original, taking the character of Dr. Mortimer and putting it in a dress. She comes off as regal, with a no-nonsense factuality of a former nurse.
Stubblefield starts out as flighty as the butterflies Jack Stapleton pursues, but changes as the evening progresses. Knotts is willowy and lovely, but there is an iciness at her core. Leal is lovely, and her character is resilient. Reimer is reminiscent of the forbidding housekeeper in the Britcom As Time Goes By.
Director J. J. Cobb, a former Valleyite now teaching college in Connecticut, keeps things going at a brisk pace, while David Pierce’s set design blends Victorian richness with a touch of foreboding.
Hound of the Baskervilles is howlingly good fun, playing at the Good Company Players’ 2nd Space Theatre, 928 E. Olive Ave., through October 15. For tickets and further information, contact www.gcplayers.com, or call (559) 266-9494.
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