Who could believe Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1901 novel “The Hound of the Baskervilles” would be so hilariously entertaining? Ludwig’s “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,” has more audience members laughing almost every minute of the show than any play I’ve seen!
The fun begins as Dr. John Mortimer is disturbed by the sudden death of his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville. Circumstances that make Sir Charles’ death quite suspicious include a family curse, dubious household staff, and the dreaded moors housing an aggressive hellhound whose presence threatens anyone who comes near him.
Sharp-minded detective Sherlock Holmes (Euan Morton) is beckoned to investigate and arrives at the Baskerville home with his trusted comrade, Dr. John H. Watson (Usman Ally). Soon to show up is Sir Charles’ son from Texas, Sir Henry Baskerville (Andrew Kober). He’s seems more the tourist than someone concerned about the investigation going on. He also is excited when he meets the pretty Beryl Stapleton (Liz Wisan). She resides at the home and looks a lot like Mrs. Barrymore!
This Old Globe Theatre production shines as one of its best. The stage literally becomes a circus of non-stop comedy. It doesn’t really matter who killed Sir Charles, because there’s no time to think about that. With five actors playing 47 people it’s a mad house of costume changes and characters running off stage and minutes later coming back on as entirely different characters.
Globe’s Artistic Director Barry Edelstein made a great choice in asking Josh Rhodes to direct. Along with the associate director, Lee Williams, they had their work cut out for them. Foremost are the mystery of the death, murder threats to others, the bearded man and missing shoe, and the brilliance of Holmes and Watson, whom are perfectly cast. How do you tame a butterfly-chasing lad (Blake Segal) running across the stage to take his place as an awkward Mr. Barrymore? Or change the very creepy Mrs. Barrymore into the lovely Beryl Stapleton or Nurse Malloy?
The design team deserves huge acclaim for creating a set that’s “alive” and changing every minute. The floor is like a cuckoo clock with someone jumping into a floor trap while yards away someone is popping out of one. The little black houses surrounding the stage are at first a mystery but become great creative editions to the play.
It’s hard to believe that stories about Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson could still be so engaging. Maybe it’s because Ludwig’s new play hits the tops of entertainment by marrying mystery and humor. Melodrama is not a word heard in recent decades, but certainly describes this jewel.