AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Adapted by Steven Canny & John Nicholson
Directed by Robert Kelley
Presented by TheatreWorks
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro St., Mountain View, CA / (650) 463-1960

Reviewed by Judy Richter

One of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous Sherlock Holmes mysteries, "The Hound of the Baskervilles," comes to hilarious life in a spoof staged by TheatreWorks.

This stage adaptation by Steven Canny and John Nicholson uses only three actors, plus two stagehands, to relate the story of a longtime Baskerville family curse that supposedly involves untimely deaths and a vicious dog that stalks the desolate moors around their remote English home.

It begins when the surviving Baskerville heir, Sir Henry Baskerville (Darren Bridgett), seeks the help of Sherlock Holmes (Ron Campbell) and his colleague, Dr. John Watson (Michael Gene Sullivan), in investigating the recent death of his uncle, the previous family heir. Sir Henry also has an unsigned note warning him not to go to the moors.

Holmes asks Watson to accompany Sir Henry to the Baskerville home in Dartmoor while he remains behind in London. When Sir Henry and Watson arrive in Dartmoor, they encounter several strange people. After Holmes joins them, they solve the mystery, but not without some close calls.

Because all three actors must portray a variety of characters, both male and female, they make some lightning-quick costume changes facilitated by costume designer B. Modern.

Andrea Bechert's scenic design is flexible, aided by Steven B. Mannshardt's lighting and Cliff Caruthers' sound. Many staging effects are purposely obvious, such as the fog machines periodically wielded on stage by two stagehands.

Because the three actors are so skilled and because director Robert Kelley paces the action so well, the show is amusing and absorbing throughout most of its two acts. The one superfluous scene comes at the beginning of Act 2, when the actors recap Act 1 at breakneck speed, supposedly to make up for things that some audience members might have missed the first time. Bridgett also has some unnecessary forays into the audience.

Besides the silliness and the story itself, this production features a chance to watch three highly skilled Bay Area actors at work. That in itself is ample reward.

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