Monday, October 9, 2023

Hillbarn opens 83rd season with 'Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery'

Michael Champlin (left) is John Watson, Alicia M.P. Nelson is Actor 3, and George Psarras is Sherlock Holmes. (Tracy Martin photo)


Five talented actors take Hillbarn Theatre & Conservatory audiences on a fun-filled romp through Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery."

Two men play Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. John Watson. Two other men and a woman, called Actors 1, 2 and 3, play three dozen or so male and female characters.

The cast is so small because in Ludwig’s interpretation, a theater company was supposed to travel to the Theatre Royal of Barnhill-on-Foster in Hampshire, England, in 1892. However, all but five of them missed the train, and all but a few trunks of costumes arrived, Watson (Michael Champlin) explains.In true show biz tradition, though, the intrepid troupe makes do with what it has. 

    Sir Henry Baskerville, a Texan who has inherited his title and a tidy fortune, has asked Holmes (George Psarras) and Watson to his newly inherited estate in the desolate moors to investigate the mysterious death of the previous heir.

Moreover, Sir Henry has received an unsigned note warning him not to go to the estate, which is supposedly stalked by a huge, vicious dog.

Holmes and Watson soon encounter several characters, some of them quite strange. After a series of adventures and close calls, they unravel the mystery.

As Actor 1, Ted Zoldan’s characters include an attorney and an eccentric butterfly chaser. Actor 2, Darrien Cabreana, is seen mostly as Sir Henry. Actor 3, Alicia M.P. Nelson, plays several female characters, but like her colleagues, she cross-dresses. Each character is clearly defined, thanks to Leslie Martinson’s astute direction of this versatile cast. 

Costumes designed by Nolan Miranda aid quick character changes with minimal additions or deletions, but one can only imagine how busy the stage crew is behind the scenes. Lighting and projections are by Spenser Matubang. Cindy Ng designed the props, which also aid in character definition, Kevin Davies designed the functional set. Jeff Mockus’s sound design features snatches from classics like “Pictures at an Exhibition” and operas like “Tosca” and “Falstaff.”

Running about two hours with an intermission, “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” has opened Hillbarn’s 83rd season, which has a new artistic director, Steve Muterspaugh.