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THEATER REVIEW: “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure”

The game’s afoot one last time at Coronado Playhouse, as everybody’s favorite sleuth tries to solve a blackmail case before bidding farewell to his long and storied career.

“Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure,” Steven Dietz’s mashup of two Holmes stories (“A Scandal In Bohemia” and “The Final Problem”) gets a lively production through May 18, directed by Nick Reeves. The play won the 2007 Edgar Award for the best play in the mystery genre.

As the curtain rises, Holmes (Charles Peters) is reported dead in the tabloids as Watson (Sven Salumaa) reads a note from his old associate, requesting his presence just before midnight, and oh, by the way, “I trust it won’t trouble you to scramble over the back garden wall and enter through the cellar.”

It seems the Bloodhound of Baker Street is far from dead. He is ready to retire, but wants to catch one last criminal, the devilishly clever Professor James Moriarty (Neil McDonald). Holmes quite respects this adversary – “without Moriarty, London would be a singularly uninteresting place” – but he’s made one minor slip, and Holmes wants Watson’s help in catching the villain at last.

As the author’s note in the program points out, Doyle’s characters are clever and devious, but not modern, nuanced or ambiguous. Holmes is your stereotypical gumshoe, and though he may have originated the mold, he’s just a guy out to get bad-through-and-through Moriarty.

But Holmes couldn’t do it without his buddy Watson, and Dietz theorizes that it may be the relationship between the two of them that has given the series such staying power.

Charles Peters is terrific as the man who lives in his head (except when he’s shooting up with cocaine for pain). The smart but sometimes seemingly heartless Holmes may even find his female match here, in spunky opera diva Irene Adler (Devi Noel), with a voice Watson describes as “the voice of love.”

This brings up the other plot strand, about the King of Bohemia (Martin White), a rotund gentleman with a crush on (and a bit of a past with) Irene. He is now engaged to royalty, and needs to get hold of a certain embarrassing photo in Irene’s possession.

Meanwhile, Irene is slated to marry the boring attorney (or is he?) Godfrey Norton (Roman Reyes).

Salumaa’s reliable, steady Watson (who happens to be a physician) has the people skills to make a perfect foil for the intellectual Holmes. He serves excellently here as both narrator and player.

McDonald’s eminently booable Moriarty is clever and slippery enough to keep the cat-and-mouse game going.

And Irene shows herself to be more than a fragile songbird. When push comes to shove, she calmly notes, “I’ve shot tenors, James. After that I can shoot anything.”

This show requires several locales as well as a few visuals that require extra thought. Set designer Bruce Wilde has a floor level playing area with raised platforms behind for those appearances. The stage crew gets a shout-out for their quick and quiet work.

Erich Einfalt’s original music is played to great effect by violinist Kathryn Raybould, with Einfalt on cello. Lighting and sound are well handled by Dale Goodman and Jacob Koehnen, respectively.

Costumers Jessica Brandon, Wendy Burroughs and Jane Russell add to the period look.

Even the smaller roles are well handled: Shaela Parrott as both a maid and the sister of another bad character, James Larrabee (Reyes); Eric Olson, a hoot as Cockney fix-it man Sid Prince and in two smaller roles, and Julian Sink in two small roles.

A fine cast, a spiffier than usual set, a string duo playing original music and lots of deception. What's not to like?

The details

“Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” plays through May 18 at Coronado Playhouse, 1835 Strand Way, Coronado.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: (619) 435-4856 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.