An icon returns
Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure
Sacramento, CA 95814
Victorian melodrama—with exaggerated encounters between a virtuous hero and an implacably evil villain, plus a damsel in distress—has become something of a lost art form during the past 100 years. But even though this structured and inevitable storytelling style has largely faded, there’s always an exception.
We’re talking, of course, about Sherlock Holmes, the brilliant detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle in the late 1800s, whose “deerstalker” cap with brims fore and aft, and pipe in hand, make him an archetype still recognizable today, even among the young.
Think of Holmes as a superhero who came along before comic books had been invented. His supreme intellect, his uncommon powers of deduction, his aloofness to the ordinary pleasures of the flesh, his singular ability to quickly solve mysteries that leave everyone else baffled—it’s still an entertaining formula. And Holmes became a role model for pop-culture icons that followed; Mr. Spock, with his logic and lack of emotion, is basically Sherlock Holmes, minus the cap, with pointy ears on a starship.
The Sacramento Theatre Company’s production gives us lanky actor William Elsman in the title role. At 6 feet 4 inches, he ducks when he goes through doorways. If Elsman looks familiar, he should: He’s played the supremely wicked stepmother, Mrs. Badden-Rotten, in STC productions of the holiday show Cinderella. As Holmes, Elsman moves to the absolute opposite end of the moral scale. He also looks rather handsome when he’s not in drag and sneering at everyone else onstage.
As the faithful Dr. Watson, we have the dapper Michael R.J. Campbell, who’s played one of the bad sisters in STC’s Cinderella, and also memorably portrayed Mack the Knife in The Threepenny Opera at California Stage. Michelle Hillen plays the beautiful operatic diva Irene Adler, who is naturally good with a pistol and as brave as any man to boot. And there’s Troy Thomas as the evil Moriarty, Holmes’ arch-enemy.
The script is by Steven Dietz, a playwright who has written more serious plays produced by STC and the B Street Theatre. In this case, Dietz is reworking an 1899 script by William Gillette (an actor who made his career playing Holmes back in the day), with credit to Conan Doyle. Dietz injects a smidge of romantic comedy, beefing up the implied romance between detective and diva so that the old story will go down a little smoother for modern audiences. Director Michael Laun sustains a bit of dramatic tension and presents the melodramatic twists and turns with a comparatively straight face—too much of a smirk would spoil the fun.
It is original, or edgy? Not in the least, nor does it pretend to be. But it is quite winningly done. It’ll tickle the fancy of kids and mystery buffs, and the characters are iconic. In this case, that quite enough.