Review "The Sign of the Four": Sherlock Can't Solve This One!


Audio Podcast at ITUNES 
Narrated by Joshua Volkers


Reviewed by Katy Walsh
It was a foggy night.  Streetlights eerily glowed through a wet mist.  A mystery beckoned from the second floor.  It was a perfect night for a murder… or was it?  City Lit Theater presents Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE SIGN OF THE FOUR.  Sherlock Holmes ‘craves mental exaltation.’  To rebel against a stagnant mind, he shoots up with cocaine between cases.  His trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson, endures the genius’ antics waiting for the next big thing.  Opportunity knocks.  A mysterious woman solicits investigative services.  Mary Morstan is receiving a priceless pearl annually from an anonymous person. The treasure is somehow connected to her deceased father. Now, the secret gift giver wants to meet her.  She can’t tell the police but she can bring two friends to the rendezvous.  Mary invites Sherlock and Watson into the mystery.  Drugs, poison, stolen treasure, destined soulmates, the elements are ripe with potential stimulation. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough coke for everyone to hit ecstasy.  THE SIGN OF THE FOUR is like being at a party sober where the host gets high and reads outloud from his favorite novel.
SIGNOFTHEFOURphoto Johnny Knight.jpgTerry McCabe adapts and directs Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel.  For the script, McCabe has Jerry Bloom (Watson) narrate the action. Although Bloom is refined with infrequent moments of droll, his efforts to be subdued as the legendary second banana come off bored. The limited amount of action keeps Bloom on the couch… a lot.  With the house lights low and motionless scenes, it’s easy to imagine Bloom is really asleep.  McCabe uses an excessive amount of long-winded monologues to tell the story.  The details are hazy white noise. For his part, Don Bender (Sherlock) intellectualizes with a pompous flair.  Bender delivers confident, wordy deliberations.  From a character standpoint, it would work if Bender was the only one pontificating.  But Bender’s grandiose Sherlock gets lost in a huge cast, complex plot and multiple mega-speeches.  
An ambitious McCabe goes for epic!  He works diligently to preserve the integrity of all Sir Doyle’s nuances. It doesn’t work. The storytelling is convoluted and dull. The audience wants to go along on a Sherlock and Watson adventure.  But instead they are stuck listening to it. It’s not a mystery. THE SIGN OF THE FOUR is a tragedy.              
A man with a critical nature, Joshua Volkers describes it with ‘close the show.’
Running Time:  Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermission
At 1020 West Bryn Mawr
Based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Adapted and directed by Terry McCabe
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Plus two Thursday performances on June 23rd and 30th 
Thru July 3rd
Production photography courtesy of Johnny Knight.

Leave a comment