A cool detective/holiday hybrid
Wednesday, December 01, 2010 1:59 AM
The long-anticipated premiere of "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol" opened at the Taproot Theater last Friday after a one-year delay due to an arson fire that damaged the theater building in October 2010.
Terry Edward Moore and Stephen Grenley in the clever and sentimental “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol.” Photo by Erik Stuhaug
Seattle playwright John Longenbaugh's play is a re-telling of Charles Dickens's "Christmas Carol" with a twist; Sherlock Holmes and his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty stand in the stead of Scrooge and Marley.
By mining such well-known sources as Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, there are few plot surprises. But the very familiarity of the material and characters, the appropriate substitution of Holmes's single-minded pursuit of science for Scrooge's similar quest for money and Longenbaugh's command of period English make for a comfortable Victorian tea cozy of a tale.
Holmes fans will delight in Terry Edward Moore's depiction of the blade thin, incisive, emotionally detached detective whose caustic observations roll ever so smoothly off his tongue. Stephen Grenley and Pam Nolte are spot on as the disillusioned but still faithful Watson and the put-upon Mrs. Hudson. David Dorrian rounds out the cast of familiar characters as the clueless Lestrade.
Under the direction of Taproot Artistic Director and co-founder Scott Nolte, the ensemble believably depicts period characters with a shared history. Our visit to Holmes' past fills us in on his formative experiences including a background in theater (thus his mastery of disguise) and his rejection of a youthful love. Aaron Lamb plays young Holmes with just the right touch of coldness, and Queen Anne resident, Jesse Notehelfer, is lovely and touching as the rejected lover. Alex Robertson brings a menacing bonhomie to his ghost of Christmas present and is appropriately weary as Moriarty's ghost.
Not to give too much away, but Longenbaugh's weaving of a historical incident from World War I into Holmes's visit to the future works as a clever and sentimental turning point for Holmes' growing awareness that there is value to humanity.
The sepia-toned backdrop of Mark Lund's scenic design has the look of an antique book print, immediately transporting us to the world of Victorian fiction, as does Sarah Burch Gordon's costume design. Jody Briggs's lighting of the ghostly entrances and exits adds drama.
Perhaps the delayed opening of "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol" wasn't such a bad thing in the end. The recent resurgence of Sherlock Holmes including the Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law film, the American airing of the BBC mini-series featuring a cyber-smart Holmes set in modern day London, plus the growing popularity of the steam punk genre may broaden the play's appeal to include a more youthful audience.
"Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol" plays through Dec. 30 at Taproot Theatre. For more information, go to www.taproottheatre.org.