Thursday, March 26, 2015

reviews - SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUICIDE CLUB

Jeff Carpenter
photo by: Tiffany Bollock
For more information on this production, that runs through March 29, click here

"Jeffrey Hatcher's Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club is a well-written suspense play in which Arthur Conan Doyle's famous sleuth finds himself in the middle of a group of men who wish to end their own lives. With twists and turns aplenty and a fine performance from Jeff Carpenter as Holmes, the production is receiving a serviceable, but still very fun, production from Desert Foothills Theater.  Jeff Carpenter is quite good as Holmes. His body language throughout, whether he is sitting or standing, shows a man who is always deducing the situation around him, but with a clear amount of feigned indifference as well. Unfortunately, Joe Simon's portrayal of Holmes' sidekick Dr. Watson is very low-key and, while he adds a bit of humor to the role, he seems to not really attempt an English accent, which is a distraction. Anthony Maniscalco is the Russian man who seeks Holmes' help and Melissa Neiger his French girlfriend. Both bring the appropriate sense of determination of two people trying to find a way to get out of the predicament they are in. The ensemble cast play multiple parts, some better than others. Donna Georgette brings a combination of mystery and menace to the club secretary while Zackary Diepstraten has a winning stage presence as the more outgoing member of the Club. Matthew Harris employs two great accents as the German Mr. George and the British Inspector Micklewhite, and Andrea McFeely has a lot of fun as Mrs. Hudson and two other female characters. Unfortunately, beyond Harris and McFeely there is an almost complete lack of attention to accents throughout, with most of them inconsistent or absent, which is a bit of a letdown, or in the case of Maniscalco and Neiger, their thick accents make the dialogue almost unintelligible at points.  Director Amy Serafin keeps the play moving along at a nice clip, though there are plenty of times when she allows the play to breath appropriately. However, blocking is a bit of a challenge in a space like this, with the side audience sections wrapped a bit around the stage. And, since Serafin tends to stage almost all of the scenes with the cast pushed toward the front of the center audience and, in the many scenes with five or six characters, has almost all of them standing in a straight line, it means that people on the side, like myself, often struggled to hear dialogue when an actor had his back to us, which was quite often.  While costume designer Aurelie Flores has crafted some fetching and elaborate period perfect gowns for the women and crisp suits for the gents, set designer Thomas Underal has gone the minimalistic route. But, with the addition of Alex Cozza's impressive sound design and Daniel Kersh's evocative lighting, the moments involving murder and suspense still deliver.  Hatcher has written a suspenseful play with a few moments of humor and, even with a few shortcomings, the production at Desert Foothills Theater amounts to a fun time with a great performance by Carpenter as Holmes to help ground the whole experience." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)


"Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation of the suicide club motif~ first introduced by Stevenson in his 1878 three-story cycle and later embodied in the pranksterish secret society of late 1970's San Francisco ~ places Doyle's Holmes and Watson in the sticky thicket of 1914 Europe. It's a clever fusion and makes for a mind-bending whodunit experience. The ever-melancholy Holmes (Jeff Carpenter), in apparent despair and much to the alarm of Dr. Watson (Joe Simon), joins the Suicide Club whose idiosyncratic members adopt pseudonyms to hide their identities and commence upon a game of musical chairs that at one point is fatuously described as "a final journey akin to grace." The method, administered by the Club Secretary (Donna Georgette) and designed to "avoid the messy practicalities" of the act, involves "suicide by second parties," wherein each member picks a billiard ball from a hat, the color determining who shall be the victim and who shall do the deed. Of course, nothing is as it seems, and Sherlock suspects that there may be skullduggery afoot among his fellow members. And, of course, he's quite right.  The fun of the play, directed by Amy Serafin, is in the twists and turns that engage and captivate the audience until the true culprit is unmasked and the conceit that has driven the crime is revealed. Notwithstanding some stumbles in staging and uncertain accents, the show is a mystery-lover's fine entertainment and a tribute to the inherent value of community theater.  It is also, in a moment of poignant Holmesian reflection, a reminder of our vulnerability to hybris. Political intrigue abounded in the early years of 20th Century Europe, each dalliance in diplomatic alignments and nefarious schemes for hegemony auguring the potential for catastrophe. Thus, as Holmes presciently acknowledges in the play's denouement, there are two kinds of suicide clubs, and the one most to be feared is that being acted out offstage by the Great Powers in the ominous days preceding the Great War. We know how that turned out, and a century later realize how little in the affairs of states has changed." -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

1 comment:

  1. Looking great, Jeff! Miss working with you!

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