It's elementary: For a delightful evening of entertainment -- filled with flashes of intrigue, gentle good humor and even romance -- "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure," directed by Russell Treyz on the Elizabeth Wallace stage of the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, is the perfect solution.
If you are a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, you are in for a huge treat; if you merely enjoy Sherlock Holmes, you are still in for a treat.
The characters playwright Steven Dietz created are molded by the careful story and creative dialogue that flows through the evening. The work, winner of the 2007 Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Mystery Play, was adapted by the award-winning Dietz from the Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and William Gillette. Dietz presents "The Final Adventure" by offering some of the juiciest, tangled and spirited moments from both "A Scandal in Bohemia" and "The Adventure of the Final Problem."
Treyz' production, which opened last weekend, is solid. In moments, you enter the Victorian world of the early 1890s he has brought to life. The play offers a close up look at 221B Baker Street, London, allowing the audience a glimpse of Holmes being Holmes.
Michael Strauss, making his arts center debut, plays Holmes exactly right: I enjoyed the detective's logic and deductive skills while simultaneously becoming anxious as a variety of unfortunate events built up to the end of Holmes' career.
Actor R. Bruce Connelly nails Dr. John Watson down to the gnat's eyelash. Connelly is brilliant and has a delightful sense of humor, and I was comforted by his steadiness and, most especially, his affection for Holmes. As Holmes' sidekick, he is perfection and as the narrator, the moreso.
The plot, already slightly thickened, becomes thicker with the appearance of the King of Bohemia, played by Daryll Heysham. Kind-of handsome, kind-of comical and kind-of -- I suspected -- dimwitted, the king is being blackmailed with a damaging photograph from his past that would put a halt to his impending marriage. He calls upon Holmes for his leadership and assistance.
Now is as good a time as any to bring up Irene Adler. Do you remember Holmes' kind of unusual interest in "the woman," opera singer Irene Adler, from another story? Adler, played by Chiara Motley, surfaces in this production and puts an edgy spin on everything. Adler has a strange attraction to Holmes and could be at the center of much of what is going wrong.
When Holmes, Watson and the King strike out to uncover the photograph, it's fairly obvious that Holmes' archenemy and long time rival -- the criminal genius, Professor Moriarty -- lurks somewhere at the base of this twisty plot. Jonathan Holtzman as Moriarty surfaced to fulfill my anticipation and expectations. What a plan he has put in place!
The story expands with the appearance of Jenny Zmarzly as Madge Larrabee and Jonathan Horvath as James Larrabee. Horvath is based in New York City, but Zmarzly has appeared in several enjoyable South Carolina theater productions.
The versatile Wesley Mann plays not only Sid Prince, but also the Postman, Clergyman, Policeman and Swiss Man. Mann returns to the arts center after just completing his 10th season with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. In his roles, he kept me guessing at the game board of possibilities.
The atmosphere created through the lore of Sherlock Holmes and the story and characters created by Dietz is enhanced by stage manager, Ginger M. James; scenic designer, Brian Riley; lighting designer, Terry Cermak; costume designer, Diane Griffin; and sound designer, Bobby Beck. What a gift to experience the time and the place on another important level.
The evening moves quickly as the audience is exposed to the ageless appeal of the world's greatest detective, his deductions and his disguises.