There is an episode of American Horror Story: Hotel that features an annual dinner hosted by famed serial killer James March and his maniacal dinner guests John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Aileen Wuornos, and Richard Ramirez. This was one of my favourite scenes in the entire American Horror story anthology- it was raucous, rowdy, and ridiculously displayed without ever losing its sense of unnerving tension. Watching the dinner unfold made you feel like any of these insanely evil creatures could come undone and unleash their inner terror at any moment.
Jared McDaris’ original play Sherlock Holmes: Almost Got Him by EDGE Theatre presents a similar setup as a mysterious person has called several of Sherlock Holmes’ villains together for an undisclosed purpose. We meet Sebastian Moran (a stalwart and icy performance by Kreg Kennon), Irene Adler (played by Alex Cross, terse in trousers), Holy Peters (a grotesque money-grabbing turn by Rick Olsen), and Woodley (a mumbling, bumbling Shaun Hayden in pure comedy of errors form). I don’t think it spoils much to tell you that your favourite devious professor, Moriarty (Adam Hoak) is the mastermind behind the intended mayhem. In short, the group is brought together to finally bring down that pesky Sherlock Holmes and his little Watson (Tony Fernandez) too. While the group awaits the arrival of the titular man in question, they all share their stories of how they “almost got him” as the ensemble takes turns literally wearing many hats and they portray characters in each villain’s story.
It is a fun premise and you could tell the performers really enjoyed engaging in these tales. Director Orion Couling is the kind of the activist director who practices what he preaches. As an advocate for inclusion of all abilities, he has made it his mission to showcase people of all walks of life, all gifts, and all backgrounds on his stage. It is incredibly inspiring and truly promotes a sense of community. After all, what is the purpose of the theatre if not to bring people together?
Performances came at a range; however the construction of the play allowed everyone to have a moment in the spotlight. Some highlights included Adam Hoak as the brooding and precise Moriarty descending the staircase awash in red lighting, Matt Holmes as my personal favourite (and most literarily accurate) Sherlock of the night, and Shaun Hayden as our “scapegoat”. The final threads of the story fall on Hayden’s shoulders and he proves himself to be up to the challenge.
Costume designer Hannah Compton had a lot on her plate with such a large cast and the efforts of her work were most evident in the women’s costumes from Irene Adler’s pinstriped pantsuit to Mrs. Hudson’s (Alexandra Boroff) teapot gown to Lady Carfax’s (Grace O’Neill) furs. Lastly, the lighting design by Marissa Goecaris was excellent and provided much aid in securing the world of the play.
As far as structure, the premise of the surprise ending does require a great deal of suspended disbelief. The motivations of characters in the final moments is a little shaky, however the dress up party leading up to it is very enjoyable indeed. This play functions well as a catalyst for ensemble work, which Couling’s staging presents.
Don’t miss your Sherlock Holmes fix! Sherlock Hol mes: Almost Got Him runs from Feb 11th-26th at 7 pm on Saturdays and 3 pm on Sundays at the Devonshire Cultural Center (4400 Greenwood St) in Skokie, IL. Tickets are only $13! For more information call 847-674-1500, ext 2400 or visit www.skokieparks.org/devonshire-playhouse.
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