The Game is Afoot at White Heron Theatre

by Catherine Macallister

The stage at White Heron is set: wallpaper in crimson red reminiscent of parlors, a single light post at center stage, and the silhouetted outline of famed detective Sherlock Holmes provides a back drop for the beginning of Hound of the Baskervilles. We meet Sir Charles Baskerville (Joe Delafield) as he runs through the Dartmoor in Devonshire. Sir Charles is attempting to escape the ominous spectral hound that has haunted and hunted the Baskerville family, and collapses to floor with dramatic flair, dead. Just as you think the play will continue on, “STOP” is yelled from the wings where Watson (Mark Price) and Sherlock (Dan Domingues) emerge, stopping the production for a hilarious chat and warning to audience members who too may find themselves afraid of the hound.

photo courtesy White Heron Theatre

Once the play resumes, it becomes clear that this is no traditional telling of Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and instead a humorous adaptation by Steven Canny & John Nicholson. The plot stays true to the original (mostly) offering the mystery and adventure that are often associated with Sherlock Holmes. The mystery follows Sherlock Holmes and John Watson as they try to figure out who is controlling the gigantic supernatural hound that is killing off the family of their newest client, Sir Henry Baskerville. Everyone is a suspect, especially when the trio arrives in Dartmoor at Sir Henry’s family residence, Baskerville Manor. With Sherlock still in London, it up to Watson and Sir Henry to uncover the mystery behind locals like the Stapletons and the Barrymores. With suspense, mystery, and a great deal of humor, the standout cast delivers Hound of the Baskervilles like you’ve never seen it.

Price, Domingues, and Delafield effectively deliver standout performances as their primary characters and the twenty or so other characters that they play throughout the show. Domingues takes on the bulk of the transformations playing Holmes, the Stapleton husband/wife duo, the Barrymore husband/ wife duo and a number of other characters. He arrives onstage as the fiery Cecile Stapleton, resplendent in an Andalusian dress and mantilla. From behind the cover of a fan, he acts as Mr. Stapleton who is calling for Cecile, before scurrying off stage to then reappear as Mr. Stapleton. Delafield (delightfully called Butterfield by his costars, by mistake) draws laughs as the nervous, twitchy Sir Henry who frequently appears on stage, mysteriously without pants exclaiming “I appear to be trouserless!” Price too, plays all parts well and delivers the dry British humor necessary to ground the audience in the late 1800s. His appetite, outbursts, and need to crack the case without Sherlock lead to comedic blunders and farcical misunderstandings.

The script demands perfect comedic timing and physicality from all of the actors, something that is delivered from the moment the show begins. Rollicking buggy rides and hysterical train rides to the Moors, all requiring the synchronized movements of the trio of actors, will have you marveling at how much rehearsing was required to ensure that the scenes were both believable and funny. The audience will enjoy the lack of fourth wall, a separation that usually exists so that audiences are separate from the story, and instead are welcomed right into the action. Knowing looks draw big laughs from the audience in moments that seem “too scripted.” Notably, Watson asks Sherlock for a bite of sausage and eggs and Sherlock deadpans, “Watson, it’s stuck to the plate” showing the audience his plate full of fake food. More memorable still is Holmes’ observation, “another sturdy performance” as Delafield finishes a bit as another character. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to keep track of each character that walks, runs or prances on the stage, fear no more, costume design by Jeni Schaefer has allowed for seamless transformations. That, coupled with the actor’s ability to bring a totally new character to life within seconds will allow you to see the beauty behind this spoof.

The overall effect of the show: the timing, the scene changes, and the pace, was made possible with a stunning light design by Christina Watanabe and scenic design by Charlie Corcoran and a terrific run crew. Well-timed sound effects worked perfectly with the actors timing to strengthen moments of slow motion, gunshots, and background music. Under the direction of direction of director Mark Shanahan, who returns for a second season, this trio of perfectly cast actors delivers remarkable performances that will leave you laughing until curtain call.

Appropriate for all ages, save a couple of jokes and words, this show is certain to delight audiences as they follow the zany romp of three talented actors on a cleverly twisted Sherlock Holmes adventure. Performances continue through July 20: tickets are available at whiteherontheatre.org.

For extra fun, join White Heron Theatre and the cast for a Murder Mystery Gala on July 19, with cocktails at Devonshire Manor (cleverly disguised as the Nantucket Hotel) followed by dinner and entertainment to die for. It would kill most guests to miss this annual social event, and this year one unlucky guest will meet an untimely end. Gala tickets are at whiteherontheatre.org