By: Alex Spindler ~Arts & Entertainment Editor~
Regional theater company Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park unveiled its season opener, “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club,” to a packed house on Sept. 11.
Written by Jefferey Hatcher and based on characters penned by both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson, “Holmes” enlist London’s famed detective in another mulch-faceted crime, this time involving the politically-charged “Suicide Club” of underground Great Britain.
After infiltrating the club’s general meetings, Holmes discovers that the six members (himself included) randomly murder each other out of unfulfilled desires to commit suicide.
Yet, with the help of his assistant Watson, a Russian monarch and a devious club secretary, Holmes discovers that there may be an international conflict lurking below the surface with another mystery to be solved.
Playhouse in the Park paid extreme attention to detail, and it paid off immensely. Many of the actors were required to speak with Russian, French or Cockney accents and not a single slip of the tongue was evident. In addition, the technical aspects were astounding to behold.
The seedy, yet bourgeois nature of the “Suicide Club” called for high-class furniture while the streets of London called for fog and intricate lighting.
Humorously, the technical workers donned butler suits and not only moved stage pieces around but also interacted with the actors, stole chocolate treats and even participated as accomplices to the murders. Aside from the rich adaptation, which perfectly captured both Doyle’s and Stevenson’s macabre yet gripping tone, the actors performed with brilliance, wit and, above all else, purpose.
Leading the pack as the detective of Baker Street, Holmes himself, was the ingenious Steven Hauck who gave a first-class and believable performance to a character more lightly played by famous actors like Robert Downey, Jr. or Benedict Cumberbatch.
Douglas Rees gave naturally sympathetic and light-hearted life to his performance as the bumbling Watson.
However, the actress who stood out by far was Tonya Beckman who took on the complex role of the Club Secretary. In one instance, she was just another vaudeville performer, but in another, she diabolically instigated murder and pulled off some hilarious dance moves to boot.
The only critique of the show lies in the pacing. The beginning took its time getting off of the ground and a few scenes in between tense moments contained dull soliloquies.
However, that issue reflects back more on the authorship and not so much on the production, which was top-notch.
A classic “whodunit” coupled with black humor and edge-of-your-seat suspense made “Sherlock” a knock-out. This is most definitely a stellar start to the Playhouse’s 2014-15 season.
To purchase tickets, visit http://www.cincyplay.com or call 513- 421-3888 and order them soon before they sell out.