Friday, September 30, 2016

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Sherlock Holmes like you’ve never seen at Lakewood Playhouse

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 29, 2016

from left – Kayla Crawford as Dr. Watson, Gary Chambers as Sir Henry Baskerville, and Jacob Tice as Sherlock Holmes. Photo by Tim Johnson

The Hound of the Baskervilles at Lakewood Playhouse is not the spooky version of the story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but a spoof on it by Stephen Canny and the British comedy troupe Peepleykus (pronounced people like us). It is a Monty Python-style skit expanded to about two-and-a-half hours with bits apparently inspired by the Reduced Shakespeare Company and perhaps the Marx Brothers and the old Carol Burnett TV show — not to mention The 39 Steps, which director John Munn also directed at Lakewood Playhouse.
Like The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), the actors even stop at one point and replay the whole thing in a super-fast speeded-up version. And they not only break the mythical fourth wall, they shatter it to smithereens, even to the point of introducing themselves to the audience as themselves rather than as the characters they play, and they criticize one another’s acting.
Yes, it is madcap, insane, and a daunting challenge to the director, actors and three-person backstage crew, all of whom together shall forever be known as the Magnificent Seven. The marvel is they almost pull it off. Almost. There are moments of comic genius and amazing acting, not to mention feats of backstage magic we can only surmise. But despite all this, I found myself at times wishing they would just get on with it and finish it up. Not all of it was as funny as hoped for. I noticed on the night I attended that the audience laughed, but not wildly, and sat stone-faced through long scenes.
Three actors each play one major character and many others. The press release said 50 different characters. I didn’t try to keep count. I just know that many of them were named Baskerville and were played by Gary Chambers; Sherlock Holmes and a lot of other men and women were played by Jacob Tice, and Dr. Watson was played by Kayla Crawford. Of the three actors, Crawford plays her part almost without comic exaggeration. Chambers is rubber-faced and crazily funny, and Tice is not only rubber-faced but also rubber-bodied, with movements that bring to mind Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks.”
There’s a great segment in a steam room with Watson (remember, she’s a woman in this version) trying to maintain her dignity when the two men keep dropping their towels, and a funny dance scene with Tice as a woman dancing with Chambers, and hilarious bits with a stuffed doll sporting Chambers’ long pony tail (he’s supposedly a dead member of the Baskerville family), and a scene on a train where Tice plays a conductor with a voice like the monster in Young Frankenstein, and a great little scene with Chambers and Crawford playing patty cake/hand jive. If you like such Vaudeville-type silliness, you’ll love this Hound of the Baskervilles.
The Hound of the Baskervilles, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 9, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $25, $22 military, $21 seniors and $19 students/educators, 253.588.0042,

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