The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles
By Steven Canny and John Nicholson
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Orlando, FL

I went and re-read the original Sherlock Holmes story and dang it, this rollicking parody hits just about every plot point in the original, but with more wit, slapstick and panache than even Dr. Watson could muster. There are no walls here; the cast speaks to the audience, runs thought the audience, and assaults the audience although the show does offer a free drink ticket for an intermission pint for their trouble and mortification. The ethereal Steven Lane mainly covers Holmes’s lines; he’s slim and gaunt and a master of the dead pan. The only legitimate Brit in the cast is the rarely seen Steven Needham; his dossier focuses on Watson and his documentary functions as well as some necessary yokel work. There are many a yokel in this show, spooning out plot points in that unintelligible West Country palaver aimed as confusing Americans. Ruddy Chris Crawford does the heavy character lifting. He’s the about-to-be-dead Sir Henry Baskerville, his own dead brother, most of the female roles, and another phalanx of yokels. This show is PACKED with yokleness.

Comedy is the essence of timing, and timing is what makes this show pop. People and props fly together with split second precision. Smoke rises from the steam room, costumes are changed in mid-flight, props drop from the rafters yet never quite injure any actor. The audience senses no fourth wall; this is as intimate and raw as a first readthrough but with more people sinking into the moors. This show has, by far, the best “sinking in to the moor” effect ever staged. As we exit, one question sticks in my mind: what makes the British prefer to live on land that will swallow them up as surely as California catches fire? No good answer comes to mind, so come for the comedy, stay for the brilliant stage craft. And be sure to check out the armor-plated wallets in the gift shop. Watson recommends them.

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit http://www.orlandoshakes.org

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