Fantastic characters, high drama, a peppering of unexpected jokes — the VLT production of Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure has it all, almost.
Steven Dietz’s 2007 adaptation of William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1899 play won the Edgar award for best mystery, and it is a great selection for a community theater. It is a fun combination of “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Final Problem,” with Holmes (Dan Pegoda) locked in a culminating intellectual battle with the nefarious Professor Moriarty, while falling for the brilliant, beautiful opera singer Irene Adler (Tracy Ilene Miller).
Much of the acting lives up to the standards of VLT. Holmes fans will not be disappointed by Pegoda’s gentle, phrenic Holmes. Achilles Massahos is a darling Watson, and he is steadfast in his commitment to the character and the tone of the production. Miller masterminds an engaging Irene. There is great spirit among some of the criminals, including Paul Rhoden’s quick-talking, safe-cracking Sid Prince and Leslie Murray’s multi-accented Madge.
Director Suzanne Shapiro doesn’t shy away from the melodramatic, or from the humor inherent in the story. You can see a strong pattern of direction that tries to shore up weaker aspects of the script. The problem seemed to be that some cast members were not buying into her vision, or simply not living up to it. We have to suspend a lot of disbelief for the premise of any of Doyle’s mysteries, and the only way to pull off a production of such a fantastical story is to bring total commitment to every moment on stage. Some actors nailing it most of the time still leaves a number of scenes where one or more characters appear to be performing in a lesser production.
The set, so long a strength of VLT productions, was cumbersome. The script moves the audience quickly from one location to the next, and despite a great deal of scraping furniture, the set was not able to keep up with the action. Skillful lighting might have helped direct audience attention, but as it was, it was hard to tell if someone was on the street, in an apartment or standing under a waterfall because most of the time they seemed to be doing all three.
It is likely the production will gel with time, and even with a few elements gone astray it is a delightful evening. Audience response is strong and happy to bask in the web of Holmes’ logic. If the cast and crew were to locate a few more pieces of the puzzle, The Final Adventure would be complete. ν
Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure runs through Jan. 26 at The Very Little Theatre; $12-$17.