'Sherlock's Last Case' at Charity Randall Theatre produces intriguing death threat
Those who follow the adventures of Sherlock Holmes through the centuries know he's one resilient and resourceful sleuth.
He survived the plunge over Reichenbach Falls that author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle devised in the hope of bringing an end to the tales of his deductive powers.
Earlier this year, he also returned unscathed and ready for another season of “Sherlock” on PBS after his apparently deadly leap off the top of St. Bart's hospital that ended Season 2.
So, naturally, when a death threat arrives at 221B Baker St. at the start of “Sherlock's Last Case,” Holmes finds it more intriguing than threatening.
But it's also possible that his ego could override his reason.
“Is this curtains for the world's most famous detective?” asks the headline on the news release from Kinetic Theatre Company, which is producing Charles Marowitz's potboiler July 9 through 26 in the Charity Randall Theatre, Oakland.
“Sherlock's Last Case” picks up the story in 1897, some six years after the horrific events that occurred at the Reichenbach Falls. A death threat has been delivered to Holmes, and the bearer of the message is the daughter of the late Professor James Moriarty. Unfazed, but intrigued by the threat, Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. John Watson, embark on a bizarre and fascinating case that ultimately brings them face-to-face with his rival.
Marowitz's play is both a thriller and a sly comedy, says Andrew S. Paul, the artistic director of Kinetic Theatre Company and the director of the play.
“He's sending up Conan Doyle's work and, at the same time, paying homage to him,” Paul says. “The jokes are very ridiculous. But at the same time, all Conan Doyle stories are ridiculous.”
“Sherlock's Last Case” follows Strindberg's “Dance of Death” as Kinetic Theatre Company's second play of its two-play 2015 season.
Originally, Paul had intended to do “One Man, Two Guvnors” with Simon Bradbury in the lead. “I knew Simon wanted to do it,” Paul says. “But I was blocked from getting the rights.”
Fundraising consultant and Kinetic Theatre supporter Gale McGloin suggested he fill the spot with a Sherlock Holmes play.
“Marowitz intrigued me the most,” Paul says.
Paul asked David Whalen, who has played Holmes in Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre productions of “Sherlock Holmes & the Crucifer of Blood” and “The Mask of Moriarty,” to play the character again and hired Bradbury to play Watson.
This is Bradbury's first experience with playing the slightly obtuse, but good-natured, Watson.
“I looked too young, before,” Bradbury says. “I look more like Nigel Bruce (who played Watson in several Sherlock films) now.”
Bradbury says the play is elliptical and epigrammatic.
“It's so very well written. ... It is an enormous responsibility just in the fact that Watson has more of a profile than (usual). It's a psychological journey that requires enormous psychological digging. It's a real workout for an actor.”
Sherlock lives on
Despite his creator's attempts to kill him off, Sherlock Holmes continues to thrive.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930. But Sherlock Holmes, his most famous character, lives on in a neverending stream of reincarnations, revisions, revivals and repurposing.
Here's three of the more recent:
• Veteran actor Ian McKellan will portray Sherlock Holmes in “Mr. Holmes: The Man Behind the Myth.” Set in 1947, the now aged Holmes wrestles with his failing memory while attempting to solve the case that forced him to retire. It's based on Mitch Cullin's novel “A Slight Trick of the Mind.” Laura Linney plays his housekeeper Mrs. Munro. The film is scheduled for release July 17.
• Season 3 of “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, will be re-aired starting Sept. 6 on PBS. There's no word yet on when Season 4 will air.
• “The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes,” which is making appearances at three sites west of the Mississippi this year, invites visitors to step into Doyle's Victorian London and work side-by-side with his legendary detective. Locations include the Discovery Science Foundation in Santa Ana, Calif., through Sept. 7; Denver Museum of Nature & Science, opening Oct. 15; and Pacific Science Center in Seattle, opening October 2016. Details: sherlockholmesexhibition.com