“Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery”
Long Wharf Theatre
“Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” is currently enjoying an entirely delightful and atmospheric production at Long Wharf Theatre. Smoothly directed by Brendon Fox, this show embraces a juicy whodunit story, as well as providing an evening of sheer theatrical entertainment.
Like the play version of “The 39 Steps” (which, as it happens, is also presently being staged at a regional theater in Connecticut), “Baskerville” employs a small company of actors, some whom play multiple roles. Indeed, besides the two performers playing the leading characters of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, “Baskerville” includes two actors and one actress who take on several parts, sometimes with the male performers playing women and vice-versa. (“The 39 Steps” largely employs the same conceit).
Still, despite obvious similarities, “Baskerville” and “The 39 Steps” can coexist as their own separate entities. While “The 39 Steps” closely follows the plot of an Alfred Hitchcock film, Ken Ludwig has fashioned a play version of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” that proves to be jolly good fun. Besides the fine work of the actors, “Baskerville” can be saluted for its rapid-fire scene changes and, even more so, for its even faster costume changes. Director Brendon Fox works splendidly with both his performers and his designers and this show, clocking in at about two hours, with an intermission, is quite a lark and should particularly satisfy fans of Sherlock Holmes mysteries.
What “Baskerville” especially has going for it is an enticing story of murder and mayhem. After an opening scene in which one sees a character being killed, the show focuses on the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson and how they go about solving the mystery. Long Wharf Theatre is fortunate to have the ideal actors to portray these two iconic characters.
Alex Moggridge makes for a wonderful Holmes, and he is actually somewhat friskier and more playful than I have seen Sherlock Holmes being portrayed in the past. In Moggridge’s performance, one can see both the detective’s cunning use of logic, as well as the amount of bubbly joy he takes in trying to catch the murderer. The excellent Daniel Pearce as Doctor Watson matches his costar perfectly, appearing suitably befuddled at times, in addition to being open to just about any suggestion that Holmes asks of him.
As for the other three performers in the cast, all of whom play several parts and can switch characters in a moment’s notice, they deserve some kind of award for their collective range of versatility. Kelly Hutchinson is quite lovely and engaging, as she takes on most (but not all) of the female parts in “Baskerville” and this actress appears entirely fresh portraying each new role in the production.
Brian Owen and Christopher Livingston are both terrific and they are pretty riotous onstage playing the rest of the characters, with Owen especially shining, in drag, as the deaf and buxom wife of a hotel manager in one scene. Livingston is just as good, with his main role being that of the Texas relative of the victim, and the one character who may be next in line to be murdered.
The contributions of the sensational designers cannot be overestimated. The stylish set design by Tim Mackabee is mostly a series of set pieces (including door frames and various pieces of furniture) that are rapidly brought on and taken off the stage by the actors, as well as the stagehands (who, deservedly, come out for a bow at the end of the show). Lex Liang’s costumes are luxurious and entirely appropriate to the late 19th Century time period of the show. Likewise, lighting designer Robert Wierzel is an absolute wizard, as he practically shapes the individual scenes with his expertise.
Director Brendon Fox keeps the pacing of “Baskerville” brisk throughout and the show actually seems to be in almost constant motion. Combined with the superb play that Ken Ludwig has written, and the uniformly magnificent work of the actors, this show passes by in a cascading breeze of elegance and suspense. “Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” at Long Wharf Theatre can be heartedly recommended, especially to those who enjoy a good detective story.
“Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” continues performances at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT through March 25, 2018. For tickets, please visit www.longwharf.org or call the box office at 203-787-4282.
Photo: Alex Moggridge and Daniel Pearce
Photo by T. Charles Erickson