Sherlock Holmes With a Decided Twist at Surflight Theatre This Week

By Rick Mellerup | Oct 01, 2019
Courtesy of: Surflight Theater

Beach Haven —

The game will be afoot at Surflight Theatre from Thursday, Oct. 3 through Sunday, Oct. 6 when Ken Ludwig’s play “Baskerville” will be performed.

The show is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, perhaps the best-known Sherlock Holmes tale/tail.

The adventures of Holmes and his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson have been recounted onstage and on film and television hundreds of times since the duo was introduced in the novel “A Study in Scarlet” in 1887. The master detective has been portrayed in just about every conceivable way. And then Ludwig entered the fray.

Ludwig has taken over from the late Neil Simon as America’s premier stage comedy writer. His very first Broadway play, 1989’s “Lend Me a Tenor,” garnered nine Tony Award nominations, winning three. In 1992 he added a book to George Gershwin’s music and Ira Gershwin’s lyrics to create the musical “Crazy for You,” which won Best Musical awards on both Broadway and London’s West End. He has written 17 other plays and the book for three more musicals. In 2006 The Times of London called Ludwig “the purveyor of light comedy to Middle America,” adding, “There is hardly a regional theatre in America that hasn’t a work of his scheduled.”

Ludwig is a master of farce. So expect “Baskerville,” which premiered in 2015, to be totally unlike any Sherlock Holmes play, movie or TV show you’ve ever seen before. It is a fast-paced comedy with just five actors. One plays Holmes, another Watson, the other three fill almost 40 roles.

David Siegel of dcmetrotheaterarts.com reviewed a production of the show by the touring company of Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre this March at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts:

“Ludwig took a very broad leap from Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1902 The Hound of the Baskervilles. He turned it into a newfangled, snappy comedy. ... No worries. No need to recall all the ‘ins-and-outs’ of the original Conan Doyle source material ... to enjoy the Walnut Theatre production. All that was needed was a desire to be humored with a willingness to let go of inhibitions to laugh, chuckle or merely chortle or snicker. And, at times, roll one’s eyes as purposeful groaners of humor make their way from the stage into the audience ...

“What gives the production its comic lift and bouncy pizzazz is a gaggle of three actors who play about three dozen roles between them. They are full of energy and stamina with no fear of strange accents, pratfalls, silly walks, acting ’strange,’ abundant facial hair, and purposeful bad timing.”

I don’t doubt Ludwig fans will love “Baskerville.” But will Holmes devotees, “Sherlockians” as they like to be called, be able to stand seeing a classic mystery turned into a comedy?

Well, Rebecca Ritzel for The Washington Post talked to 40 members of a DC area Holmes fan club called the Red Circle which took in a production of the show in our nation’s capital.

“Everyone enjoyed it,” said the Red Circle’s leader. “I thought the play was fascinating; it had a tremendous amount of energy, with a lot of humor.”

“In our world of weird Sherlockians, we have a lot of fun with the stories,” said another Red Circle member.

Tickets for “Baskerville,” which will be staged at 2 p.m. on Oct. 3 and 6 and at 8 p.m. on Oct. 3, 4 and 5, are $39 for adults and $29 for children 12 years of age and younger. They may be purchased online at surflight.org, by phone at 609-492-9477 or at the door.

Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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