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Theater Review: “Holmes & Watson”

“Holmes & Watson” plays through November 18, 2018, at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach.
Photo credit:
Aaron Rumley

Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, bless his clever, tricky little heart, is at it again.

This time he’s taken aim at everybody’s favorite detective in “Holmes & Watson,” a twisty little tale that examines whether Holmes – who has been reported dead – has actually managed to elude the Grim Reaper.

In the West Coast premiere at North Coast Repertory Theatre, Dr. Watson (Richard Baird) shows up at a grungy little asylum in Scotland to interview three peculiar inmates, each one claiming to be Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes is said to have had a fatal encounter with his arch-nemesis Moriarty on the dangerous rocks of Switzerland’s Reichenbach Falls, which sent him plunging to his death in the rapids below. This event was reported by Arthur Conan Doyle in his story “The Final Problem.”

But Holmes’ body was never recovered, which brings us to today’s story. Dr. Watson has been called by asylum administrator Dr. Evans (Si Osborne) to identify which – if any – of these three is the real Holmes.

They’re a motley crew. Holmes 1 (Jacob Sidney) is quite well-spoken, and if he’s not Holmes is certainly well read on Holmes lore. Holmes 2 (Drew Parker) has long hair, a mustache and a beard and seems a little nuts, but that may partly be due to the fact that he’s in a straitjacket. Holmes 2 states immediately and unequivocally that his interrogator is not Dr. Watson. Holmes 3 (Christopher M. Williams) is quiet, very quiet. In fact, he is deaf and seems catatonic....until hypnotized by Dr. Watson, which transforms him into a storyteller.

The cast is completed by two other actors playing multiple roles. There is a prim, taciturn Matron and a mysterious Woman, both wonderfully played by Alice Sherman. And J. Todd Adams is effective in three roles: an Orderly, Moriarty (in silhouette, effectively seen on Marty Burnett’s set) and an Inspector.

Director David Ellenstein has a fine feel for the mystery genre, and for Hatcher’s comic sensibility as well; the show rollicks along as a witty whodunit  – though I guess we’d have to call it a who-is-it – getting more complex by the minute until the final reveal.

All the pieces work here. Baird gets top billing, and rightly so since he never leaves the stage and presents a most engaging character. But all the other actors are equally excellent in their roles.

Marty Burnett’s set is less elaborate than usual but very cleverly done. Kim Deshazo’s costumes are spot-on and Matt Novotny’s lighting especially effective. Chad Lee Thymes contributes some spooky sounds.

Everybody loves a good mystery. Here’s one that’s more than fun to watch – you’ll never see the solution coming.

The details

“Holmes & Watson” plays through November 18, 2018, at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach.

Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm

Tickets: (858) 481-1055 or northcoastrep.org