Lakewood Playhouse opened its 74th season Sept. 14 with a Sherlock Holmes play the likes of which you have probably never seen.
Like all stories involving the greatest detective ever, not much can be written about this play without giving away the surprise ending. But suffice it to say, the gist of the story is classic Holmes. There is a mystery to solve, nuanced clues along the way, and the whole story is tightly wrapped up by the time the lights go out in this two-hour play written by Charles Marowitz.
“Sherlock’s Last Case,” while not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has all the elements of his mystery greats. There is Holmes, of course, (played by Steve Tarry) and his sidekick Dr. Watson (John Munn) at their flat on Baker Street as a mystery unfolds. The offspring of the duo’s arch nemesis, Dr. Moriarty, have come to seek their revenge on the man who murdered their father by taunting Holmes with riddles and threats. With that, the game is afoot.
The plot seems to have gotten the upper hand of the famous detective when he finds himself clamped into a chair in a dark cellar. And the story gets dark from there, as what at first seems real becomes an illusion of double crossed schemes and betrayal.
Tarry, a South Sound theater mainstay, does well with bringing Holmes to life with his full-on arrogance and to-the-point comments of emotionless ultra logic. Munn too, brings Watson to the stage in a way that is familiar yet uniquely different by diving into his mind the way other plays lack. The Holmes-Watson pair is clearly dysfunctional in the classic police partnership ways, but this show brings that to light in a way that is both understandable and shocking.
Clearly one of the “unspoken” characters in this play is the set itself. Designed by Larry Hagermann, the main set rotates to create a new place with a quick spin, both keeping the pace of the play on task and successfully creating a new scene.
Director Christian Carvajal did well at creating the “fly on the wall” feel for audience members used to the theater’s in-the-round seating, although this show only has seats on three sides to make way for the larger set pieces. A seat shuffle at intermission creates a whole new view of the actors and the show as the story comes to its climax. With few spaces on the stage for lesser actors to shrink into the background, the set demands all actors bring their A game during every moment under the lights because they are never more than a few feet away from someone staring right at them, whether they are the focus of the action or not.
That said, at two-hours, the play was a bit wordy at points and could have been tightened up to shave a few minutes here and a few minutes there to keep the action going. This is a play without sword fights or struggles over runs or mad dashes to freedom. It all happens in the words the actors say as they shuffle from one side of the stage to the other. While a car crash or zombie attack would have been out of order, a cool fight scene would have been nice, or at least a shorter play by a few nips and tucks in the script seemed in order for the more attention deficit audience members.
The play also features: Mrs. Hudson (Cassie Cahill), Inspector Lestrade (Terence Artz), Elizabeth Moriarty (Rachel Gemello) and Damian Moriarty (Mark Rud.)
The play runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays thorough Oct. 14. There is also an “actor’s benefit show, at 8 p.m. on
Thursday, Sept. 27. Call (253) 588-0042 or visit http://www.lakewoodplayhouse.org
for more information. The Lakewood Playhouse is located next to the Pierce Transit Center in the Lakewood Towne Center.