by Lynn on November 4, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Greg Kramer
Based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Directed by Andrew Shaver
Production designed by James Lavoie
Lighting by Itai Erdal
Sound by Jesse Ash
Video Design by George Allister
and Patrick Andrew Boivin
Cast: David Arquette
Patrick Costello
Graham Cuthbertson
Matthew Gagnon
Kyle Gatehouse
Barbara Gordon
Karl Graboshas
James Maslow
Renee Olstead
Trent Pardy
Ana Parsons
Amy Rutherford

Dreadful in every elementary way, my dear.

The Story. A body is found by the docks in London. Scotland Yard is stymied. They naturally call Sherlock Holmes to solve the crime. In the meantime Sherlock Holmes takes in a boarder named Dr. John Watson who begins to help Holmes with his cases. His job really seems to be saying, “How do you know that, Holmes?” Then Holmes can show off how he made such an instantaneous deduction.

A buxom lass named Lady Irene St. John rushes in to Holmes’ home saying that her husband has disappeared just after he gave a speech to the Houses of Parliament asking to ban opium. Lurking around the outskirts of these goings on is the dastardly Professor James Moriarty, Holmes’ nemesis. He is at the center of all this nasty business. Holmes is on the case to find out who the first dead man is; where St. John has disappeared to, and why a case of tea has been delivered to the St. John residence.

The Production. It’s difficult to tell what playwright Greg Kramer’s intention was with this play, and subsequently what director Andrew Shaver was thinking when he directed it. Is it meant to be a send-up of a melodrama? Is it meant to be a camp comedy? Is it meant to be a bit of both done very, very broadly? In any case it fails on almost every level.

At two and a half hours Greg Kramer’s play is bloated with lame dialogue and jokes that land with a thud. After the play opened in Montreal last year it should have been re-written and cut drastically so that it is done in one act with no intermission. Alas Mr. Kramer died suddenly and it does not appear that a re-write happened.

Director Andrew Shaver seems to have been cursed in Toronto with a huge stage to fill and a lot of money to spend on bells, whistles and video razzmatazz in his production that actually do little to progress the story or plot. Too often distracting projections and sound effects clutter the production and prove distracting from the play (mind you, since the play is not very good, I guess being distracted from it is not such a bad idea.). Statements such as: “The Mystery of the Dead Body” or “The Mystery of the Empty Trunk” splash along borders and panels on the stage, which only re-iterates what the audience hears minutes before these statements are projected. When Holmes and Dr. Watson are on a train racing to St. John’s country home there are projections of rotating train wheels on the curtains stage left and right in case we don’t get the idea when Holmes says they are taking the train.

Shaver directs his cast to deliver most of their lines downstage looking at the audience and not often looking at each other. David Arquette as Sherlock never actually focuses long enough to look at a character and then makes the involved deductions he does. Arquette also seems to be doing a bad impersonation of a person doing a bad impersonation of a British accent. And he drops the last word in many sentences so you’re not sure what he’s saying. Most troubling is that he’s rocky in remembering his lines. When I saw the show on Halloween (fitting, that) Dr. John Watson was played by an understudy—in this case, Andrew Shaver, yes, the director. He knew his part better than Arquette knew his. At times Shaver fed Arquette his lines if they were in a scene together. Now that’s just wrong.

I rather liked the imposing danger that Graham Cuthbertson as Colonel Sebastian Moran conveys. And as Professor Moriarty Kyle Gatehouse has that mix of condescending confidence and the right balance of toying with his enemy and plotting to destroy said enemy.

Why designer James Lavoie dresses Lady Irene St. John in the skimpy, suggestive way he does suggests that if things don’t work out with her as a member of the aristocracy, she could audition as a Playboy Bunny. One more mystery in this bizarre production.

Comment. Starvox Entertainment in association with June Entertainment is producing this epic. One wonders why. They planned a two week run in Toronto in which the actor playing Dr. Watson would be away for about 4 days of that run doing another commitment. Why cast him? They then have the media opening, during the second week, so that the actor playing Watson can get into the groove acting with the other cast members. The opening was scheduled for tonight (Nov. 3) four days before it closes. That’s just nuts. And trying to find out the actual opening night in advance, considering how busy the season is now, was also problematic because the producers just didn’t have it set until the last minute. Again, why put this show on at all? Another mystery not even Sherlock Holmes could solve.

Produced by Starvox Entertainment in association with June Entertainment.

Began: Oct. 22, 2015.
Opened. Nov. 3, 2015.
Closes: Nov. 7, 2015.
Cast: 12; 8 men, 4 women
Running Time: 2 ½ bloated hours, with one intermission so patrons can flee.

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