Mystery Solved! Baskerville a Bloody Success
I had the pleasure of attending Manoa Valley Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. Led by an all female cast, Baskerville had me on the edge of my seat rolling with laughter and intrigue. Like every great mystery, we open on a dark and stormy night, fog in the air, foreboding sounds in the distance, and of course: a grizzly death. Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson are set on the case to solve this mysterious death, meeting with beautiful vixens, wacky witnesses, and “trustworthy” acquaintances along the way.
Upon taking our seats, we’re treated to the sight of a beautiful Victorian style play house, instantly building intrigue as to what mysteries await behind that velvety red curtain. The lights fade, the curtains pull back and we are transported to London in the late 19th century. The true wonder of this show is that it is performed by only five actors and a few stage hands. These five actors masterfully filled the streets, mansions, hills sides, and moors of London with diverse and complex characters. These characters included, of course, Sherlock Holmes played by Brooke Channon Dee, Dr. Watson played by Malia Wessel, Dr. Mortimer, Sir Charles, Mrs.Hudson, and another 26 diverse characters; everyone besides Holmes and Watson were played between the remaining three actors Therese Olival, Courtney Booth, and Shannon Winpenny. Their character changes were rapid and happened right in front of our eyes. The sheer number of characters to keep track of felt a little overwhelming at times but the three actors did well to delineate each character from another. It took a bit of focus to keep track of every detail and character, and when I felt a little confused or misled, Dr. Watson or Mr. Holmes were quick to set me back on the right track so I never felt lost. That being said, I honestly didn’t know who did it until the very end… darn you, Mr.Holmes, for always being ten steps ahead of me.
Everyone’s performance was exhilarating and vibrant. I felt that Wessel and Channon Dee’s consistent performances helped to ground the show in reality while Winpenny, Olival, and Booth’s wacky and larger than life character portrayals rounded out the entire piece creating a complex and fulfilling show. The cast even created some comedic bits that poked fun at the exhaustion, confusion, and complex costume changes that the actors needed to go through. Even the stage hands (Sheena Dornan, Valerie Ho, Karolyn Miller, and Abigail Oelke) had their own comedic moments in addition to moving the story along. I was sad not to see them listed on the cast page of the program. The only things I felt held back the performance was a subtle lack of confidence in the words from the cast and their volume being a bit soft at times.
Costume designer James Corry and Supervisor Jennifer Hart definitely deserve an award for what they were able to achieve with Baskerville. There had to have been upwards of over thirty different costumes, each one just as beautiful as the one before. Kudos to the cast for jumping in and out of each costume in rapid succession. Rob Duval’s direction of this power house cast in combination with Corry’s beautiful set, and Sara Ward’s prop design showed off the true art of theatre. With a desk, a couple of luggage trolleys, and talented actors, you can take the audience from the streets of London, to a crowed inn, on a rickety train, through the halls of Baskerville mansion, and back again.
The fact that the cast is all female is great and definitely empowering given the times were currently in, however, I don’t want this to overshadow the fact that they are all simply great actors. Baskerville, is in my opinion, a success not because of their gender dominated cast but because of the talent, passion, care, and commitment each artist on and off stage has contributed to this production. Do yourself a favor and head on down to Manoa Valley Theatre and witness this passion for yourself. Congratulations to the cast and crew of Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery and thank you for a providing a wonderful night of theatre.
Baskerville runs at Manoa Valley Theatre until January 28. For additional show and ticket information visit Manoavalleytheatre.com or call the box office at (808)988-6131.