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Monday, 13 January 2014 11:52

A new addition to the Sherlock Holmes canon?

Written by Tina Farmer
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A new addition to the Sherlock Holmes canon?
firstruntheatre.com

First Run Theatre, a professional company dedicated to the production and promotion of works by local playwrights, closes its season with an entertaining new entry in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The show, Jason Slavik's "Whatever Remains" is entertaining and well paced, if occasionally a bit of a credibility stretch.

The show generally follows the traditional arc of a Sherlock Holmes adventure, with Holmes indicating to Watson that he hasn't had an interesting case recently but is intrigued by a letter he recently received. Robert O. Stevenson, as Holmes, and Jeremy Goldmeier, as Watson, comport themselves quite convincingly in the roles. The two have a nice bond and there is a genuine sense of friendship conveyed.

Stevenson is, naturally, a bit presumptive as to his influence on Watson. In this production Holmes, in fact, takes credit for the success of most of his companions, doing so in a typically matter-of-fact fashion that feels true to character. Stevenson is a proper Holmes, and he portrays the detective with a comfortable assurance. His mannerisms and affectations, particularly his somewhat prudish nature, all fit well with the traditional Victorian sleuth. Rather than breaking new ground, he finds his place within the established character.

Watson is quite likeable as a character, if a bit underdeveloped. I am not certain if this is due to the addition of several other characters under Holmes' mentorship, but I did at times feel that I wanted more from Watson -- more intellect, more deductive speed and, perhaps, even more action. Goldmeier is consistent, with a dependable familiarity, but he isn't given much to do.

As the American investigator using the alias Dr. James Smith, Brad Kinzel turns in an interesting, if uneven, performance. I found the character a bit uneven as well, with too many conveniently inexplicable contrivances. It is the character of Smith that may need the most attention in future revisions of the play. I wanted to willingly be swept up in the story but, between the possible time traveling, the pocket watches with special powers, and the multiple references to state secrets he cannot reveal, I found it difficult.

Gwynneth Rausch, as Mrs. Hudson, and Maurice Walters II, as Constable Charles Wiggins, have nice moments in supporting roles, and it is interesting to see Holmes passing his skills of reasoning and deduction on to more than just Watson. Charles Huevelman, as the notorious Dr. Victor Sumatra, is an excellent snake oil salesman, though less convincing as an evil scientist. The playwright may want to look at providing a little more depth to this character; at the moment he doesn't seem quite the villain he is reputed to be.

The stage dressing, lighting, and costumes all complement the show well, and the live musical accompaniment is a welcome touch. Director Robert Beck makes some smart choices throughout the show, drawing focus to detail, and the use of the proscenium for the street and ship scenes works well. There are a number of small, humorous exchanges sprinkled throughout the show, adding energy and emotional variety. Unfortunately, there is also an abundance of unfocused, unmotivated movement. Overall, however, the show runs at a good pace.

The script is reflective of the original stories, without being derivative of any of the most well known adventures. There are many, many fans with a much deeper knowledge of the genre than I, however. My assessment is more focused on the story and the performances, and I was able to easily believe both as successfully referencing the characters, style, and charm of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

As the Sherlock Holmes series is firmly entrenched in the public's mind through popular BBC and CBS interpretations, his adventures obviously still captivate contemporary audiences. Playwright Slavik succeeds in creating his own episode for the detective, and, though some revision and tightening may be recommended, he clearly shows promise in the genre.

First Run Theatre's "Whatever Remains" runs through January 19, 2014 at DeSmet Jesuit High School. For more information, visit www.firstruntheatre.com.

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