A Sherlock Holmes Spoof at Walnut Street Theatre

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
A tongue-in-cheek retelling of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of the Speckled Band is now at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre until March 27.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) was a British author and physician known for his crime fiction featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. This production is a comic version by Bill Van Horn of the drama The Speckled Band. Six actors assume the personas of multiple characters. The six actors are Philadelphia legends of the stage, who have won numerous awards and appeared in hundreds of productions. They are Dan Hodge, Justin Lujan, Mary Martello, Ian Merrill Peakes, Karen Peakes,and Bill Van Horn. All of them attacked their multiple roles with gusto, and accomplished quick costume changes. All six deserve Bravos.
Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of the Speckled Band was presented in two acts, halved by an intermission. Our first glimpse of the curtain and proscenium arch was delightful, thanks to set designer Brian Froonjian. The curtain had elements which changed from beginning, intermission, and end. Enchanting. Natalia de la Torre’s costumes were lavish and detailed, bringing that vanished time vividly to life. Shon Causer’s lights, and Christopher Colucci’s sound never missed a comical effect, as when the name Sherlock Holmes created heavenly light and sound on stage. Our Dr. Watson, Bill Van Horn, also wrote this version of the classic, and directed it as well. Triple Bravos, Mr. Horn.
Some may have been surprised when on Opening Night the play was introduced as a comedy. Eh? You might say. It would have surprised anyone who did not read their Playbill. It clearly said it was a new version of the story. Philadelphia legend Mary Martello once again proved that she is as mysterious as the 100,000-year-old Sphinx of Egypt. Her portrayals included a coroner who seemed to be the love child of Miss Prism and Aunt Augusta, a butler who for all appearances was gender fluid, and, according to the Cast Notes, “Others.” She will also later grace this stage as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit. For all we know, she may be Rocky’s trainer (memorably played by Burgess Meredith in the film) in next season’s musical Rocky. Mary Martello might even be Big Daddy in next season’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. One has learned to never underestimate Mary Martello. Will Julie Halston and Ben Dibble be Maggie the Cat and Brick? One can hope. If not, and if it is rewritten as a comedy as this offering was, perhaps Varla Jean Merman and Leslie Jordan could play Big Mama and Big Daddy?
This Opening Night audience was well attended. Covid-19 protocols were optional, which surprised many. Only about a third of the audience was masked. This audience loved the pratfalls, arch delivery of lines, and general nonsense so much that one tall couple a few rows back laughed as loudly and long at the aged butler’s eighth pratfall as at his first. 
Come to the Walnut Theatre to see this kaleidoscopic romp which will lighten your spirits.
Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of the Speckled Band will be on stage until March 27. For information, and to purchase tickets, visit www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or call 215-574-3550.

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