Sunday, October 27, 2013

Review: New Sherlock Holmes play debuts at the Bickford-‘Sherlock Holmes: The Knight’s Gambit’


Sherlock Program

"It is elementary"....the world's greatest detective Sherlock Holmes is currently in residence at the Bickford Theatre in Morristown and nightly (and matinees) foiling a most dastardly plot against the monarchy. The play, a world premier, is "Sherlock Holmes: The Knight’s Gambit" by actor-playwright Paul Falzone. 

Playing the master of deduction is Nick Plakias complete with the iconic deer stalker cap and a Calabash pipe, with a meerschaum bowl. Assisting Holmes is his side-kick, biographer, and flatmate at Mrs. Hudson's 221B Baker Street residence, Doctor James Watson (Richard Howe). Of course, no Sherlock Holmes tale is complete without the pride of Scotland Yard, Inspector Lestrade (Bill Tatum). Lurking in the background, unseen, is the world's master criminal, Professor Moriarty. Moriarty is ably assisted by Lecomte (Scott McGowan).

sherlockInnes arrives

The play may have an implausible plot, but it is fun,a bit of a classic melodrama. The cast wisely plays it straight, obviously enjoying their roles, however.  Certainly it is not as clever as "Sleuth" and "Deathtrap" or the original stories of the creator of Sherlock Holmes, the Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but, Sherlock Holmes fans and the Baker Street Irregulars  will find "Sherlock Holmes: The Knight’s Gambit" quite satisfying.

The two act play is set in Holmes' flat with all the quirky furnishings on display, including a suit of armor. The effective set was designed by Carl Sprague for the Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington, Vermont where the play premiered last month. Director of "Sherlock Holmes: The Knight’s Gambit" is Eric Peterson, the founding Producing Artistic Director of the Oldcastle. We understand that Peterson has demonstrated a feat of magic in bringing the play to life, per word from Vermont. The original actor cast as Sherlock was forced to bow out for family reasons. Nick Plakias was quickly recruited in New York and joined the cast...forced to go on initially with script-in-hand. To his credit, he makes an effective Holmes. 

The play's problems did not end with the cast substitution, evidently playwright Paul Falzone has answered early critics via several script revisions obviously a less than ideal situation for director and cast. Our primary suggestion concerns the Lecomte role, played by one of our favorite actors, Scott McGowan. As written, his nationality transformation introduces an element of farce to the proceedings. This is where reviewing a mystery can be difficult as it is too easy to revert to a simple description of the plot, thus demystifying the play. 

The other cast members are equally effective as Plakias; Richard Howe, the Associate Artistic Director of the Oldcastle, is a perfect Watson* as is Bill Tatum as the bumbling Inspector Lestrade; Maplewood's Scott McGowan, so fine in last year's "I Do, I Do" at the Bickford, nicely demonstrates his versatility. 

This is the third co-production between Eric Peterson and the Oldcastle Theatre Company with Eric Hafen (artistic director) and the Bickford. This form of co-operation that includes the cast, the set, props, and key production members (Carl Sprague scenic design and Liz Stott costume design) makes great economic sense. The local production members are Roman Klima lighting designer and Yumi Matsuura production stage manager.

You have until November 10th to join Sherlock Holmes and company in solving Moriarty's diabolical puzzle.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio   October 25, 2013

The Bickford, is a professional (Equity) theater, conveniently located within the Morris Museum on Normandy Heights Road in Morristown, New Jersey. It has free parking and full accessibility. 

Box Office hours for phone sales are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-up hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reserved seats are $45 for the General Public, $40 for Senior Citizens, Morris Museum members and Bickford Theatre Guild members, and $20 for Students (18 or under or with valid college ID). Group rates are available for groups of 10 or more. For tickets or more information, please contact the Bickford Theatre Box Office at 973.971.3706 or visit

Remaining performances are:
Thursday, October 31 at 7:30PMSherlock with clock

Thursday, October 31 and November 7 at 2  PM

Friday, October 25, November 1 & 8 at 8 PM

Saturday, October 26 and November 9 at 8  PM

Sunday, October 27, November 3 & 10 at 2PM

*"In 1929, English crime writer and critic Ronald Knox stated as one of his rules for fledgling writers of detective fiction that, "The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader."

Photos: 1-L-R Nick Plakias, Scott McGowan, Richard Howe & Bill Tatum: 2-Nick Plakias as Sherlock (Oldcastle/Bickford).

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