‘Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose’ at The Montgomery Playhouse

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The game is afoot in Montgomery Playhouse’s light and entertaining holiday mystery, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose. Virginia Cate and Duke Ernsberger adapted the narrative from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story, The Blue Carbuncle. Legendary super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his faithful sidekick Doctor Watson team up to solve a puzzling situation. And—it must be said—they suspect “fowl” play.

Betsy (Anne Vandersook), The Countess (Laura Cox), Sherlock Holmes (Matt Sims), Dr Watson (Paul Noga), and Robins (Samuel Pollin). Photo by Scott D'Vileskis
Betsy (Anne Vandercook), The Countess (Laura Cox), Sherlock Holmes (Matt Sims), Dr Watson (Paul Noga), and Robins (Samuel Pollin). Photo by Scott D’Vileskis.

For 127 years people have been fascinated by Sherlock Holmes, the first and the most popular fictional detective ever created. His powers of deduction are amazing — such as describing almost everything about a man’s history and lifestyle by examining his hat — and his personality is compelling.

The story of Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose takes place on Christmas Eve in 1892 in London, England. A woman is walking down the street carrying a goose that she plans to cook for her family’s Christmas dinner, when a stranger accosts her and steals the goose. Meanwhile, the Blue Delilah Diamond owned by the Countess Mordrid and thought to be cursed, goes missing. To solve these mysteries, Holmes and Watson have three primary clues: a trail of dead geese, a man in a red scarf, and an old, beat-up black hat.

David Jones’ clever set design transports the audience to Victorian-era London, and Costume Designer Maggie Skekel appropriately provides Sherlock’s traditional tweeds, cape, and deerstalker hat.

Under the brilliant direction of David Dossey, Matt Sims portrays Sherlock Holmes with a flawless English accent and the condescending confidence of the master detective, along with a rapid-fire speech pattern reminiscent of an auctioneer.

As a perfect counterbalance for Holmes, Paul Noga essays the role of Doctor Watson with humor and panache. It’s surprising that, in all 56 short stories and 4 novels, Holmes never utters the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Nevertheless, this becomes a standing joke in Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose. As one of the funny themes in this adaptation, Watson asks Holmes to stop using that phrase because the good doctor finds it demeaning. Holmes tries mightily throughout the play to use one hilarious substitute after the other, but never quite succeeds.

Another satiric moment comes when Dr. Watson is asked to describe an opium-based medication and he rattles off more than a dozen side effects in the manner of modern-day television advertisements.

Laura Cox shines as Countess Mordrid, as she superbly embodies the haughty and spoiled woman of wealth. Mrs. Hudson, Holmes’ landlady, is played by Barbara Turner with excellent comic timing.

As Betsy, Countess Mordrid’s maid, Anne Vandercook is absolutely hilarious in portraying fear and grief—crying, sniffling, rolling her eyes—as Sherlock accusingly waves around the black hat that serves as a significant clue.

Another talented comedienne, Joy Gerst, plays two different characters—each with verve and vitality. As the woman whose goose is stolen, she claims that goose is much better than turkey and quips that, “Those Americans will eat anything!”

Samuel Pollin also takes on two roles. As a scary but funny pickpocket, Pollin demonstrates a delightful talent for physical comedy. Cory Atwood turns in a splendid performance as an arrogant and insulting aristocrat, Lord Calvin.

David Jones as Constable Peterson makes you feel like you are watching a typical English bobby of the late 1800s. He projects honest amazement at Sherlock Holmes’ brilliance, and there is never a false moment in his performance.

The best part of the show is a wager between Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Sherlock bets Watson that he could not find anyone who performs acts of kindness for their own sake without wishing for anything in return. Doctor Watson wins the bet, but the person he finds to fit that description is a charming surprise.

The mysterious Mr Robins talks - (Dr. Watson (Paul Noga), Robins (Samuel Pollin), and Sherlock Holmes (Matt Sims). Photo by Scott D'Vileskis.
Dr. Watson (Paul Noga), Robins (Samuel Pollin), and Sherlock Holmes (Matt Sims). Photo by Scott D’Vileskis.

Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose provides wholesome, family-friendly entertainment, and audience members of all ages may learn a thing or two about the true meaning of Christmas. You won’t want to miss a moment of this enjoyable holiday treat, so order your tickets today!

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

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Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose plays through December 21, 2014 at Montgomery Playhouse performing at The Gaithersburg Arts Barn — 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, call (301) 258-6394, or purchase them online.

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Paul M. Bessel and Barbara Braswell
The most important thing about Paul M. Bessel is that on January 1, 2011, he married the most wonderful woman in the world, who helped him expand his enjoyment of theater. (The first show he remembers was Fiorello! when he was ten, wearing his first suit.) He and his wife now attend as many musicals, history seminars, and concerts as possible, sometimes as many as 4 or 5 a week, enjoying retirement and the joys of finding love late in life, and going on unconventionally romantic dates such as exhibits of mummies and lectures on parliamentary procedure. They live in Leisure World of Maryland and in addition to going to theaters as often as they can they are active together in community and local political organizations. Barbara Braswell grew up in Newport RI, where Jackie Kennedy once bought her an ice cream cone. She has been interested in theatre her whole life. While pursuing a 33-year career with the U.S. Department of Transportation — helping states build highways, including H-3 in Hawaii, where Barbara helped arrange for a shaman to bless the highway — she attended as many shows as possible on her own, with her late mother, and now with her husband. Now retired, she devotes a great deal of time to theatre, community and local political meetings, and having as much fun as possible.