Review by Danny Gaisin
Along with iconic phrases such as, ‘Go ahead, make my day’; “Round up the usual suspects”; or ‘Make him an offer he can’t refuse’; “Elementary, my dear Watson” immediately evokes an image of a deerstalker hat, meerschaum pipe and a magnifying glass. Conan Doyle’s forensically oriented and logical detective Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed, plagiarized, mocked, and imitated uncountable times since he was first created in 1887. Canadian (& Fringe) playwright David Belke brings him back from death to assist Arthur Doyle in solving an English landowner’s mystery.
The Milton Players Theatre Group and director Dennis Curley have staged this farcical and highly imaginative tale that challenges every thespian…having to act around and through one character -supposedly dead, to a third portrayer without loss of focus… think Noel Coward’s 1941‘Blythe Spirit’. In this iteration, the creator is both assisted and hampered by his fictional character who is certainly all over the stage, but ignored by all the cast members but Doyle. From the opening projected video to the final curtain, RRSH is milked for laughter to a point where some of the dialogue gets missed by bon mots or on-stage action. Curley’s direction is detailed and he manages to overcome a forty-five-foot stage with only eight players vying for attention.
The set is attractive and comfortably decorated that is augmented by occasional overhead projections and special sound and lighting effects. The costumes are attractive and representative of both locale plus era. But, it is the actors who make everything such a hoot. A family of three and their two servants; the invitee Doyle, and the two specters’: – Holmes and his ominous nemesis Dr. Moriarty. The landowning Westhavens are Ryk Simpson playing the family head; Carla Zabek is his wife Abigail and Lesley Quinn is the daughter ‘Rose’. Simpson seemed a little nervous on stage but is delightful when he is doing the role-within-a-role performing or during his diatribes with Doyle. Zabek has an extremely animated face that mirrors and even underscores her script-lines. Without betraying the plot, their daughter is the household catalyst and she milks the role to the fullest. Both servants, David Busuttil the maintenance guy and Mark Davies butlering necessarily overact even to a point of hamminess, but considering the comedic contribution both make, their easily forgiven. Audiences will appreciate Busuttil’s instinctive sense of timing and the ludicrous séance scene that he stages is outrageously funny. I kept seeing it as a kind of Passover Seder, with Holmes asking the requisite ‘four questions”.
The critical role of A.C. Doyle is rendered by Michael Chew and he contributes full measure even gleaning a little sympathy for his character’s being overshadowed by his own creation. One can feel his exasperation in being continually bested by a fiction…something like ‘Jeff Dunham’ and his better-dialogued puppets. He’s the only one who can see and must debate the ‘elephant in the room’. His demeanor is hyperbolic and constantly frustrated… something with which this scribe can easily identify. His ‘straight man’ is Sean Carsley who brings the audience a Sherlock Holmes that is the epitome of ‘cool’. Slightly arrogant and totally aloof, Carlsley can accomplish more with his pauses and intense stare than many actors with pages of dialogue. He makes forensics and logic sound plausible even in our era of “C.S.I.”
There are some super lines such as “Zabek’s “Passion, NEVER, I’m English”; and given today’s political turmoil, Holmes immortal saying – “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains no matter how improbable; must be the truth”. A belief to live by.
The Reluctant Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes is on stage at the Milton Theatre of the Arts until Feb. 11th.