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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: It is murder, mystery and mirth on the moor in Ken Ludwig's latest comedy


sherlock moor

It is "fun on the moor" at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton. The current production is “Ken Ludwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery.” It is a comedy romp from one of our favorite playwrights, Ken Ludwig, who was Tony Award-nominated for Lend Me a Tenor.

This world-premiere is, of course, adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most popular story The Hound of the Baskervilles. It is hard not to compare Ludwig's retelling of the Hound of the Baskervilles with the recent Broadway success 39 Steps also a comedy adaptation of a familiar story. Both plays feature broad, slap-stick comedy with set, prop and costume changes contributing greatly to the fun. Both have a small cast playing numerous roles. In Ken Ludwig's homage to the genius of 221-B Baker Street five performers play all the parts.

sherlock window The director of this hilarious, fast-paced tale of "murder, intrigue and a wild hound" is Amanda Dehnert. The term "director" may be the wrong designation for her role. Her contribution to this funny thriller is more like a ringmaster (or mistress) at a three ring circus.  Dehnert's marvelous cast includes Gregory Wooddell as the the master sleuth Sherlock Holmes, with Lucas Hall as his "faithful companion" Doctor Watson. Plus, Stanley Bahorek, Michael Glenn, and Jane Pfitsch, who together portray over 40 characters.

Anyone familiar with Ludwig's other comedies might be expecting to see a Marx Brothers type of crazy misadventures with doors. He does not disappoint in this off-the wall murder mystery, but in this case many of the entrances and exits are via trap-doors. 

Any Sherlock Holmes fan is familiar with the case of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Holmes is invited to visit the baronial home of the Baskervilles located on the mysterious Devonshire moors where Sir Charles Baskerville has recently been killed by a ghostly beast. The vicious, murderous act is exactly as foretold in a century old curse on the family. Can Holmes solve the case? In the words of a noted citizen of Alaska.."You betcha!

To reveal more detail of this adventure would spoil the fun.

You have until March 29th to join the comedy madness at the McCarter's Matthews Stage. Can you solve the mystery before the world's greatest detective? The running time: 1 hour 47 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

The creative staff deserve credit for a marvelous effort: Set Designer: Dan Ostling; Costume Designer: Jess Goldstein; Lighting Designer: Philip Rosenberg; Sound Designers: Joshua Horvath and Ray Nardelli; Dialect Coach: Gillian Lane-Plescia; Fight Director: Thomas Schall; Production Stage Manager: Alison Cote; Stage Manager: Kurt Hall; and Assistant Stage Manager: Samantha Flint.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio  March 14, 2015

Tickets for Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery may be purchased online at mccarter.org, by phone at (609) 258-2787, or in person at the McCarter Theatre Ticket Office, located at 91 University Place in Princeton.

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