I’m not the world’s biggest Sherlock Holmes fan. He’s always seemed just a little too posh for me and a little pretentious. Give me Columbo any day. So when the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park announced that they would open their season with SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUICIDE CLUB, I was sort of nonplussed. I mean, I figured it would be good but I wasn’t sure it would hold my interest.
It’s amazing what great acting can do, though, eh?
Sherlock Holmes is depressed, we learn and he’s looking for a way out. So he joins a mysterious club – a Suicide Club, no less, at which every meeting someone draws a billiard ball that marks them as the “fortunate victim” while another member draws a red ball, which makes them the executioner. From the very start things are not quite what they seem and I won’t ruin the surprises for you here.
Steven Hauck brings the classic character to life, giving him the charm, wit, and elegance you’d expect – but also a sense of humor I didn’t really know Sherlock had. The interplay with Dr. Watson (the equally charming Douglas Rees) as they solve the mystery of the secret Suicide Club kept my – and everyone else around me’s – rapt attention throughout the show. The supporting cast are all top notch, with especially wonderful work by Tonya Beckman, John Feltch, and Cincinnati resident Dale Hodges.
The acting is supported by marvelous tech work. I’m always impressed by set pieces that rise and fall in and out of the floor. The video projections help add to the setting without pulling focus from the story or the actors. The stagehands, members of this year’s intern company, are even delightfully in character and the set is stunning. All of these elements come together to create a wonderful sense of adventure and mystery, but again without losing sight of the true centerpiece of this production: the marvelous acting.
Just a couple notes: Hauck flubbed a handful of lines; even still he was brilliant in the role. Director KJ Sanchez keeps the show moving and despite its 2 hour run time, I never once looked at the clock. Occasionally, though, I struggled to hear a line when an actor had their back to me. Blocking is always a challenge in a space like this one. And some of the geo-political references were a little over my head and I suspect they may also be over the head of most modern audiences. In spite of it, I still followed the story as it unraveled and felt satisfied with the answers to “whodunit.”
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUICIDE CLUB is a great way to kick off what I suspect will be a superb season of theatre at the Playhouse. Can’t decide if you wanna go? It’s elementary, my dear readers. You should absolutely go.
SHERLOCK plays through October 4th in the Marx Theatre at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. More information, including tickets, can be found here. Also, check out our Season Preview audio podcast with Blake Robison, artistic director, by clicking here.