Produced by: TheatreWorks
Featuring: Ron Campbell as Holmes, Michael Gene Sullivan as Watson, and Darren Bridgett as Baskerville (the three play 20 roles among them; and "stagehands" Jed Parsario and Alfred Rudolph
Directed by: Robert Kelley
When: April 2-27, 2014
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, California
Tickets:$19-$73 (discounts available). Call 650-463-1960 or visit TheatreWorks
Read Joanne Engelhardt's review in Regarding Arts.
Read karen D'Souza's review in the Mercury News.
makes for a howling good time
in TheatreWorks production at Mountain View CPA!
"The Hound of the Baskervilles" has to be the silliest thing I've ever seen TheatreWorks stage.
It's delightful, and had me smiling and laughing all the way through.
It starts out goofy, corny and over-the-top, and then gets goofier, cornier and even more over-the-top.
"I told my husband it's like something a high school would do," one lady told me in the lobby afterward. "He said it was more like what a junior high would do."
Well, there you go. Not everybody enjoys goofy, slapstick comedy.
As it happens, I love goofy, slapstick comedy, and I am so grateful to TheatreWorks Artistic Director Robert Kelley, who directed, for putting on this wild, fast-paced farce.
And no, it's not like something a high school could do. The main cast of Darren Bridgett, Michael Gene Sullivan and Ron Campbell are all excellent actors who bring plenty of range to their roles, and a ton of gifted physical comedy.
And the scenic design, costumes, lights and sound are all brilliant. So there.
It is, as we quickly deduce, Watson, a play within a play.
First on stage is Bridgett, as a Baskerville, running for his life (in place) from an unseen but very scary sounding hound. Harrooooooo! Baskerville collapses and dies.
Then Sullivan comes out, as the house manager of the vaudeville theater in which we find ourselves, and as "author" of the play in progress. He chastises Bridgett for starting before he could give the safety speech turn off your cellphones, see where the exits are, and if you are too scared by spectral images and scary sounds, and unable to separate fact from fiction, you should leave now. Don't worry, nobody will watch you go, and you needn't be embarrassed.
Jed Parsario immediately jumped up in the audience and exited from the very row in which I sat. "You should be embarrassed!" I told him as he rushed off. I was kidding. Don't worry. Parsario shows up soon after as one of two stagehands, the other being Alfred Rudolph. The two are very busy in the show.
Then the play within the play gets underway in earnest, with Ron Campbell as Sherlock Holmes and Sullivan as Watson, in their Baker Street flat. They are hired to go to Baskerville Hall and find out who's been killing off the Baskerville heirs.
The story, as adapted by a couple of Brits, Steven Canny and John Nicholson, loosely follows the original story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but strives to never miss a chance for a goofy joke.
The three main actors play, among them, 20 different characters (reports TheatreWorks Board Chair Julie Kaufman), including a couple of different women. The two stagehands are wordlessly onstage a lot, moving around bits of Andrea Bechert's amusingly clever set pieces, and squirting out stage fog from portable devices, which they often use to punish the actors.
Speaking of Bechert's design, the bed in which Baskerville attempts to sleep is a very funny prop that nearly got its own applause. Certainly there was a titter of appreciation from the audience.
And speaking of physical comedy (well, a little earlier in this review), Bridgett and Sullivan do bits where they are sinking into bogs on the moor that are both very talented and very funny. Gotta appreciate people who can make it look like they are sinking into a bog on a solid stage with no trapdoors in use. Cute.
There is no fourth wall in this broad comedy. As the second act begins, two of the cast come out to berate the audience for a nasty note they received during the intermission, complaining about how hard it was to follow the play. They say 103 people signed it, but the only names they mention are Anne Hambly and Judy Heyboer, who are both members of the TheatreWorks Board.
So, they say, they will repeat the first act, but real fast.
And they do, and it's hilarious. It was funny the first time, but even funnier the second time, when we already know some of the gags that are coming and appreciate them all the more. No careful costume changes this time, and some of the physical stunts (such as climbing through a window frame) are done in even more goofy fashion.
And then it's back to the usual breakneck pace and the rest of the story, in which we learn who is really out there on the moor, who's been stealing Baskerville's clothes, and whether or not Baskerville can find true love and a dancing partner with an empty woman's costume.
There are many surprises and delightful gags that we will leave you to enjoy when you go see this show.
B. Modern's costumes are fabulous, as usual, and we get to see, often, how well made they are for breakaway changes. (I want Holmes' cloak, if I ever get to go to another Anything Goes gala. Of course, I will have to lose 100 pounds first.) Cliff Caruthers' sound design is excellent. We never see the hound, it certainly sounds scary. Steven B. Mannshardt's lighting design is an integral part of the show.
Email John Orr at email@example.com