Murder, Mirth Mixed In Mystery

If you think Sherlock Holmes is nothing to laugh at, take a look at the current Elkhart Civic Theatre production,

 

Dr.Mortimer (Tony Venable (right) tells Sherlock Holmes (Chad Harms, left) and Dr. Watson (Deron Bergstresser) about strange happenings in the Elkhart Civic Theatre production of BASKERVILLE.

“Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,” which opened Friday evening in the Bristol Opera House, delivers everything its title implies and something more.

Penned by Ken Ludwig, one of the most prolific playwrights of farce in modern theatrical history, and based on a novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one of the most prolific authors of mysteries of the 19th-20th centuries, and you can check your disbelief at the door en route to discovering who dunnit.

Ludwig has taken Conan Doyle’s most famous characters ·— Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson — and one of his most famous novels (he only wrote four, the rest were short stories) — “The Hound of the Baskerville” — and put (or should I say “twisted”) them together. The result is a fast-paced theatrical entertainment.

Actually, for three of the five-member cast, this ”Baskerville” is not only fast but definitely furious!

The action opens quietly enough with Dr. Watson (Deron Bergstresser), who also serves as narrator, detailing to Holmes (Chad Harms) how he determined the owner of a walking stick left in their flat by using the detective’s method of “observation, forensic science and logical reasoning.”

Dr. Watson (Deron Bergstresser, left) Sherlock Holmes (Chad Harms, center) and Inspector Lestrade (Bonnie MacGowan) are on the trail of a ghostly hound in the Elkhart Civic Theatre production of BASKERVILLE. (Photos by Mel Moore)

Listening calmly, Holmes then proceeds to prove his friend incorrect in every detail. Their discussion is interrupted by Dr. Mortimer (Tony Venable) who brings the duo a challenging narrative which combines a bit of Baskerville family history, the death of Sir Hugo Baskerville (Bonnie MacGovern) and the recent (and similar) death of Sir Charles Baskerville ( MacGovern again) which could — or could not — mean the same end for the his son, the current title-holder, Sir Henry Baskerville (right, also MacGovern).

Mortimer is asking for advice as to whether or not to tell Sir Henry as Sir Hugo’s death occurred in the same way (throat ripped out by giant hound) as Sir Charles’.

Holmes agrees to meet Sir Henry who arrives with tales of warning phone call and missing boots, new and old.

Holmes is intrigued. With Watson, of course, he heads for Baskerville Hall where the eerie fun is just beginning and the game is now afoot!

In case this doesn’t make it obvious, the remaining 40 characters are played by the remaining three cast members — Venable, MacGovern and Jenna Ladd — with little regard for character age or gender. Harms and Bergstresser remain firmly Holmes and Watson, with the exception of a disguise or two.

Sherlock Holmes (Chad Harms, second from right) and Dr. Watson (Deron Bergstresser, right0 check with two of Holmes’ street agents (from left Tony Venable and Jenna Ladd) in. the Elkhart Civic Theatre production of BASKERVILLE.

In addition to matching Holmes with the proper explanation of ghostly dog days on the Devonshire moors, the fun in this production is watching the muti-role actors morphing from one character to another and keeping track of just which one they are at which time.

Not only costumes but voices, accents (some of which are a bit difficult to decipher) and even facial hair must be changed to go with the appropriate persona..

Credit for the facility with which these changes are made must go not only to the actors but to the small but indispensible group of dressers who assist in each swift change, some of which take place in the space of only a sentence or two.

Adding to the fun is the presence of on stage “Foley artists” who are responsible for each bell, whistle, wind and howl, in short for every sound required by the script. . For those unfamiliar with the term “Foley,” it is in honor of Jack Foley, the first sound effects artist.

The projections on the back of the bi-level set take the action easily from London’s 221B Baker Street to the echoing chambers of Baskerville Hall to the dark and dangerous moors.

ECT’s go-to director for tongue-in-cheek mysteries, Dave Dufour, teamed here with lighting designer Randy Zonker, who also acted as stage manager and assistant director.

The result is definitely much more than “elementary.”

“BASKERVILLE: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” plays Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Bristol Opera House on SR 120 in Bristol For information and reservations call 848-4116 weekdays.

 

 

 

 

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