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Review: IRT's 'Sherlock Holmes'

September 22, 2008
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Neither engagingly mysterious or particularly thrilling, “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure,” the season opener for the Indiana Repertory Theatre (running through Oct. 11) offers a handsome but passionless production that lacks either a convincing threat or a committed style.

Despite quality, uphill-battle work by Mark Goetzinger as Dr. Watson and Ryan Artzberger as a second-tier villain, there just doesn’t seem to be anything at stake—which is curious for a show that begins with the reported death of the famed title character.

In Steven Dietz’s pick-and-choose adaptation of an 1899 play based, in turn, on a pair of Holmes stories (plus bits from others), flashbacks reveal how Holmes and pal Watson attempt to trap archvillain Moriarty while also aiding the King of Bohemia in an effort to recover a photo that could lead to blackmail.

When it isn’t rambling, the play relies too heavily on coincidence and see-through disguises, robbing audiences of the fun of trying to piece together a solution from available evidence (a key pleasure in mysteries). The lack of engagement in the whodunit would be fine if the mystery were replaced by thrills, humor, or romance, none of which are in residence here.

Not helping matters: A miscast heroine, staging with too many opportunities for this criminal mastermind to take out Holmes, an unbelievable unawareness of the weapons on hand, and an ending that is as perfunctory as the hand-popping-from-the-grave in the movie “Carrie.”

In digging through comments on previous productions of the play, I found reference to awe-inspiring staging of the climactic battle over a waterfall. Here, the matter is handled without inspiration or excitement.

Without such must-see design moments, spellbinding performances or pleasure-filled script, why did the IRT bother?

That, like Holmes' final act, remains a mystery.
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