‘The Secret Case of Sherlock Holmes’ at Encore Stage & Studio by Julia L. Exline

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Encore Stage and Studio presents The Secret Case of Sherlock Holmes. Written by Craig Sodaro and with artistic direction by Susan Alison Keady and executive direction by Sara Strehle Duke, Holmes is a fun production that has something for everyone in the family! Marji Jepperson solidly directs a fairly large cast for this production, which is a tall order in its own right, never minding the fact that the cast is made up entirely of young actors!

Freudley Institute patients, Tom Smith (Angus Long) and Charlotte Hyde-White (Queen Victoria). Photo  by Larry McClemons.
Freudley Institute patients, Tom Smith (Angus Long) and Charlotte Hyde-White (Queen Victoria). Photo by Larry McClemons.

Technical Director and Set Designer Kristen Jepperson raises the stakes with a highly impressive set for this production. While the usual Encore sets are never lacking in creativity, Holmes ‘set  is far more grand and ambitious than their previous productions. It begins with three main pieces; a beautiful antique writing desk, a laboratory stocked with interesting artifacts, and a large, striking time machine. These pieces are wheeled away to reveal the setting of a vast, elegant, meticulously detailed  institute. The result is highly impressive and professional. Master Technician Gary Hauptman gives the stage a pleasing effect of natural light, with sound effects like sirens and telephones  rounding out the atmosphere.

With the plot of Holmes jumping through different eras (time travel!) as well as the eccentric mash-up of characters (Queen Victoria, Dracula, Marilyn Monroe, and George Washington all share the stage at once, just to name a few!) I’m sure Costume Designer Debra Leonard  never had a dull moment! The results are about as varied as you can imagine, from animal pelts and powdered wigs, to sweeping capes and three-piece suits. Seeing such a diverse assortment interacting onstage was a lot of fun!

The year is 1886, and Sherlock Holmes (Topher Wagner) and Dr. John Watson (Sam Barrett) get caught up in H.G. Well’s (Garrett O’Donnell) untested time machine while hiding from their impatient landlord, Mrs. Hudson (Nadya Steare). Unknowingly brought to the 21st century,  Holmes and Watson wind up at what is now Dr. Sydney Freudley’s (Maggie Keane) institute, which houses regular people who suffer from “grand delusions”– they believe themselves to be famous people from the past.  Among these patients are “Marylin Monroe” (a breathy Sophia Kingsley ), “Count Dracula” (Eli Wassertzug ), “Emily Dickinson” (Lindsey Gradowski), and “Lizzie Borden” (an angsty, ax-wielding Yasmeem Moustafa ), to name just a few. Holmes and Watson are taken on as patients, believed to suffer from delusions from their fellow doctors.  As if this chaotic confusion was not enough, they have to solve a murder that has just taken place! Will Holmes and Watson be able to prove their sanity, or will the process unravel them? Can the great Sherlock Holmes solve a case under such trying circumstances?

Dr. Watson (Sam Barrett) and Sherlock Holmes (Topher Wagner) escape to the 21st century through H.G. Wells' time machine. Photo by Larry McClemons.
Dr. Watson (Sam Barrett) and Sherlock Holmes (Topher Wagner) escape to the 21st century through H.G. Wells’ time machine. Photo by Larry McClemons.

While the plot can get a little crazy, it is fun to watch it unfold. Wagner and Barrett make a dynamic pair as Holmes and Watson, and the talented young actors work well together. The logical, worrisome Watson spends most of his time trying to reign in his energetic and curious partner. The eclectic group of patients is highly imaginative, blending both real and fictional characters. General George Washington (Angus Long, who marches everywhere instead of walks) haughtily bickers with Queen Victoria (Sofia Dristas), and Count Dracula romances Emily Dickinson in a sweet scene, no matter how strange the idea of it may be. While the performances could use some development and polishing, one must remember that these actors are young-, and with taking that in consideration, the performances are impressive. I enjoyed watching these characters interact with each other. It doesn’t get much more imaginative than this!

Wildly creative and enthusiastically delivered, The Secret Case of Sherlock Holmes is great for the whole family!

SH-DCMTA

Running Time: 90 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

The Secret Case of Sherlock Holmes plays through March 9. 2014 at Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre – 125 South Old Glebe Road, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call (703) 548-1154, or purchase them online.

http://www.encorestageva.org/on-stage/now-playing/