It is arguably Sherlock Holmes' most popular case -- or maybe Dr. Watson's. In "The Hound of the Baskervilles," the famous British detective and his sidekick investigate the gruesome demise of Sir Charles Baskerville, found dead on the grounds of his Devonshire estate. Sir Charles is wearing a horrified expression on his face, and footprints of a gigantic hound are found nearby. Could it be the family curse?
It might seem almost sacrilegious to turn a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle classic into a comedy, but the TheatreSquared production opening April 25 is in capable hands.
‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’
WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2 & 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 25 through May 27
WHERE — TheatreSquared at the Nadine Baum Studios in Fayetteville
COST — $17-$44
INFO — 443-5600 or theatre2.org
"I have been a Holmes fan since I was a boy," says director Mark Shanahan, already well known to T2 audiences for his direction of "Around the World in 80 Days" and "Peter and the Starcatcher." "I distinctly recall reading Doyle's adventures with a flashlight under the covers when my parents thought I was sleeping.
"The characters have always been very real to me, and I've had a love for all things Sherlock throughout my life," he adds. "In fact, I met my wife acting in a Sherlock Holmes play called 'The West End Horror,' and I've performed and directed several Holmes-related stories. My very next directorial project is a rather serious thriller called 'Holmes and Watson' at Houston's Alley Theatre, so right now I am steeped in Holmes!"
But presenting one of Holmes' mysteries with a tiny cast, at a breakneck pace, with as much comedy as drama is a unique challenge.
"This play takes a loving jab at Holmes and turns this famous mystery on its head," Shanahan says. "It's a wild comedy which requires three outstanding comedians. Fortunately, we have some of the funniest guys I know bringing their 'A' game. The three of them play all of the roles, from Sherlock and Watson to a beautiful love interest, a mysterious butler and a host of dastardly suspects. ... It's a very physical show, and we rehearse it like a well choreographed dance -- with everything that looks improvisational being worked out with exacting precision. But the play has to have a great deal of heart in order to be funny. And we never lose sight of that in rehearsal."
Patrick Hailey, who is playing Holmes along with four or five other characters, says he had a "minimal" relationship with the Doyle mysteries until now.
"I'm most fortunate to be working with Mark Shanahan. Not only is he a director who I know and trust, but he's somewhat of a Holmesian scholar," says Hailey, who appeared at T2 in "Peter and the Starcatcher." "He has an appreciation for the characters and the genre that's absolutely infectious. With Sherlock (as well as all the other characters I play) he gave me tons of fun research -- old movies, iconic characters and performances, not just in the Doyle canon, but from all over pop culture. We have similar tastes in a lot of ways, and he knew where to point me in order to get a running start."
"I read and re-read the novel, listened to the radio dramatizations, watched all the film and TV interpretations; basically any research available to help inform my choices and enrich the performance," agrees Bruce Warren, another T2 veteran who is playing Watson. "This version has much reverence and respect for the original."
"I actually LOVE getting to play multiple characters in one show," adds Steve Pacek -- yes, also a T2 veteran -- who primarily plays the younger Sir Henry Baskerville, heir to the estate and perhaps the curse. "Luckily every character I play has its own unique costume look with some pretty defining pieces and each has a different accent, so that is VERY helpful. Once I step inside the outer layer of a character, it's pretty easy to become them. I guess you could call it the 'outside-in' approach?"
Whatever their differences, the actors and director all agree on their goal.
"With the chaotic state of things these days, there's something wonderful about coming together for a few hours and sharing in joyful laughter," Hailey says. "Between audience and performer, there's nothing quite as collaborative as a play."
NAN What's Up on 04/22/2018
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