By Pat Launer
It’s a veritable epidemic: Holmes-mania. Sherlock, that beloved sleuth, is featured in two current TV shows. And now, along comes Coronado Playhouse with the end of his tale: a stage adaptation of two Arthur Conan Doyle stories as well as an original play the Mystery Master wrote with William Gillette, conflated in 2006 by playwright Steven Dietz into “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.”
All the usual suspects are present and accounted for: the super-intuitive and supercilious Holmes (Charles Peters); his long-suffering sidekick, Dr. Watson (Sven Salumaa); the dastardly Professor Moriarty (Neil McDonald), Holmes’ arch-enemy; and the lifelong love of the ace detective, the comely and cunning singer Irene Adler (Devi Noel). And there are a few other assorted (some sordid) characters: a swindler (Roman Reyes), a faux maid (Shaela Parrott), a murderer (Eric Olson) and the King of Bohemia (Martin White).
Nick Reeves directs with a sure hand, keeping the pace lively, which, mercifully for the playwright, doesn’t provide for enough time to question the plot-holes. Like, how did Holmes know to shut off the gas line? And why didn’t he just release the gas and knock off all three of his deadly opponents when he had them together, trapped in one room? Well, it is all a game to him; he courts danger like an irresistible mistress.
Our sympathies are always with him, despite his various shortcomings: his complete inability to express any emotional connection to Irene; and of course, there’s the little issue of his cocaine addiction (we watch him strap on, shoot up and be chastised by Watson). Besides his endless confrontations with Moriarty, Holmes has to deal with the relationship between Irene and the King, who fears repercussions and blackmail.
Holmes relishes keeping multiple crime-and-punishment balls in the air. And of course, he has to tempt fate to the very end – tumbling in locked combat with Moriarty – into the abyss below a waterfall.
Watson, as always, is the guide and narrator, in this case, sadly recounting the last exploit they shared, bemoaning the friend he’ll never see again, just as Holmes loved and lost Irene – and who would he be without his nemesis? So, memory and loss are through-lines, and the sentiments are excellently mined by Reeves and his capable cast.
Peters is terrific, in Holmes’ various guises and disguises (and accents, noses and dialects). The dispassion of his erudite deductions is exquisite. Salumaa is a perfectly cautious and befuddled foil for him. Noel’s Irene is smart and sassy. And McDonald shows his Shakespearean experience with a Moriarty who’s a humpbacked, Richard III brand of villain – relishing his Evil as much as Holmes self-congratulates on his Good. Their mutual respect and dependence is artfully conveyed.
Olson and White provide comic relief in their somewhat overblown characters: the casual assassin, Prince, and the lovesick King (Prince and King? There’s royal irony there), terrified of bad publicity on the eve of his upcoming marriage – to a noble, of course, not the lowly Irene, whom he still adores (yet more love-and-loss in a plot thick with it). The live music, a marvelous duo of cello (Erich Einfalt) and violin (Kathryn Raybould) adds another layer of ache to the story.
It’s all extremely well done. The set, lighting, sound, costumes and effects are excellent. Some of the technical challenges of the text — such as Watson’s narration and the actions he describes taking place in two locations simultaneously – are deftly handled.
Whether or not you’ve got the Sherlock bug, this production’s a killer.
- “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” runs through May 18 at the Coronado Playhouse, 1835 Strand Way.
- Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.
- Running time: 2 hours.
- Tickets ($20-$27) are available at 619-435-4856, on online at www.coronadoplayhouse.com.
Pat Launer is a long-time San Diego arts writer and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and reviews can be found at www.patteproductions.com.