‘Miss Holmes’: A whole new spin for Sherlock
STONEHAM – Through the years, the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have been spun this way and that until you think you’ve seen it all in how they can be presented on stage, on TV and film.
But wait! Sherlock Holmes as a feminist? A female detective, a rather rowdy one at that? Why not! Christopher M. Walsh’s “Miss Holmes,” now being presented through April 22 at the Greater Boston Stage Company, features the estimable actress Marge Dunn as Sherlock (real; name Wilhelmina).
She’s a bit of a firecracker, upending the apple cart and upsetting Victorian society, which was hardly used to women questioning suspects, picking locks and breaking into residences to gather up a few juicy clues.
But it makes sense since many – especially wandering husbands – have long considered a woman’s deductive powers to be superior to men’s. And when Dunn sets her cap and declares “the game is afoot,” she is a marvel at work.
And yes, the trusty Dr. Watson (Brittany Rolfs) is at her side, but this time it’s a resourceful female doctor, aghast at Holmes’ tactics but fascinated by her at the same time. She also knows her way around a pistol.
Holmes serves women who have need of the services of a discreet female detective. Her latest client is a wife named Lizzie Chapman (Monica Giordano), who is receiving letters that indicate she may indeed be the next target of a killer – or is it ruse to try and deflect attention away from her husband, a controversial Scotland Yard detective with a checkered past?
Mycroft Holmes (Alexander Platt), who serves at the pleasure of The Queen, is flummoxed at constantly having to bail out his sister, who has spent considerable time “in the country” or in an asylum after an outburst or other trouble with authorities.
The theater has had success in the past with other pieces in the mystery genre, including “Gaslight” and “Strangers on a Train,” and this time Weylin Symes’ spot-on direction is heavily aided and abetted by a top-notch supporting cast that chews the scenery when that is called for.
Daniel Berger-Jones is menacing enough as Tom Chapman, a Scotland Yard detective of note who also has a penchant for questionable interrogation tactics and rough stuff, and for losing two wives under questionable circumstances.
His past has attracted the attention of a colleague, Inspector Jeffrey Lestrade (Shelley Bolman), another Conan Doyle regular recycled here.
Cheryl McMahon performs triple duty as Dr. Watson’s concerned colleague at a London medical school and hospital, as Mrs. Endora Featherstone, the mother of one Chapman’s late wives who is convinced her former son-in-law was involved, and Mrs. Hudson, usually the landlady of 221B Baker St. but here the housekeeper of the property, owned by Mycroft Holmes.
Patrick Varner continues building on a what is becoming a gilded resume as the foppish nephew of the distraught Mrs. Featherstone, and as the awkward would-be suitor of Dr. Watson.
Edward Grener (Damon Singletary) is another menacing sort, a former soldier who has done “work” for Chapman that has yet to be defined.
In portraying 19th Century London, the design team is almost as important as the cast in getting it right.
Katheryn Monthei’s scenic design effectively employs projections scenes in and around London.
Deidre McCabe Gerrard ‘s Victorian-era garb is period-perfect, Nathan Leigh’s moody sound design complements the other design elements perfectly, as does Chris Fournier’s lighting, with shadows and silhouettes helping to set the mood.
Blessedly, with so many old pros involved, the English accents all hold up for the entire length of the production
Yes. Something’s definitely afoot, and soon the bodies will start to pile up.
“Miss Sherlock” is great fun, thanks to the talents of director, cast and crew working in perfect harmony, and an impressive attention to detail that allows the proper atmosphere to be set and held during the entire length of the production.
Dunn and Rolfs make the famous duo their own, and a fine supporting cast revolves in orbit around them to make this a most satisfying evening at the theater.
The Greater Boston Stage Company production of Christopher M. Walsh’s “Miss Sherlock.” Directed by Weylin Symes. Scenic Design: Katheryn Monthei. Lighting Design: Chris Fournier. Costume Design: Deirdre Gerrard. Sound Design: Nathan Leigh. Props Master: Emme Shaw. Through April 22 at the Greater Boston Stage Company, Stoneham. Greaterbostonstage.org.