Sherlock Holmes and his trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson, embark upon a decidedly cockeyed version of the harrowing mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles. This wildly comedic variation on the thriller continues through Saturday, Nov. 17, at Flat Rock Playhouse.
There’s something familiar about this Holmes mystery (adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson from Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tale), though it isn’t similar to the Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing or even Robert Downey Jr. films. Rather, it resembles the stage comedy The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged, which predated this adaptation of Doyle’s Baker Street detective by a couple of decades. The similarities include three actors taking on all the roles (in this case, there are 15 characters). They stop the proceedings early to reveal to the audience that they are only actors and they are there performing a play. One actor stomps out in protest to end Act 1, only to be brought back in Act 2, where there is a fast-paced retelling of all that has gone on before.
The results are entertaining, though they might rankle Sherlock Holmes purists who prefer a good mystery over rampant tomfoolery. There are quick-change costume gags and a wry wit about the show that feels akin to something out of Monty Python. Director Jim Helsinger keeps the pace tight and allows his actors the room to work the crowd within the parameters of the play. Indeed, it is hard to know if everything is scripted or some bits are off the cuff. The former is the most likely, but the elegant ease of the comic work of the actors makes it feel fresh and in the moment.
Preston Dyar takes on multiple roles (mostly the Baskerville family) while Larry Daggett plays Holmes as well as an assortment of roles (fitting, since Holmes was known for disguises and even shows up in several during this show). Daggett is particularly funny as an exotic Latina character who entices Dyar’s Henry Baskerville. Rounding out the trio is David Lind, who mainly plays Watson and works steadily to temper Dyar’s paranoia and Daggett’s wounded ego.
Dennis Maulden’s fittingly cartoonish set pieces roll in and out, making for quick changes of scenery. Don Tindall’s excellent sound design and CJ Barnwell’s lights could be considered co-stars in the show, giving perfectly cued moods and laughs. The hardworking crew also deserves hearty recognition for keeping actors in the right clothes and getting them back onstage within mere seconds at times.
This is far from serious stuff, but anytime a Sherlock Holmes play can also make a (former) North Carolina governor Pat McCrory bathroom joke, it’s forgiven for having strayed so far from 221B Baker St.
WHAT: The Hound of the Baskervilles
WHERE: Flat Rock Playhouse, 2662 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock, flatrockplayhouse.org
WHEN: Through Saturday, Nov. 17. Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.. $20-$52