- Photo courtesy of Suellen Fitzsimmons
- Simon Bradbury (left) and David Whalen in Sherlock's Last Case, at Kinetic Theatre
Kinetic Theatre's production of Sherlock's Last Case, directed by Andrew Paul and written by the late Charles Marowitz, is a fist made of theater which ripped through my chest right for my heart, like in Temple of Doom. It's the kind of a play that makes every attempt to describe it through metaphor labored through its sheer peculiarity.
It's less a detective story than a character study — a subgenre of detective story generally enjoyed only by English professors. Misdirection is employed, but to the end of future surprise. There are clues, but only to motivations — the plot twists are happily ridiculous. It's difficult to talk about Sherlock's Last Case because, unlike a detective story where the only real spoiler is whodunit — such as The Mousetrap, which enjoyed decades of critical acclaim without a reviewer publicizing the killer (it was his sled) — Last Case pulls the rug out from under the audience several times before curtain call. And these pulls account for the best part of the show.
And this is not to cast aspersions on the rest of the show! The cast is admirable, from Weston Blakesley as a very funny Lestrade, and Susie McGregor-Laine's adorably Scottish Mrs. Hudson, to Moriarty and an ingénue played by Joanna Strapp. The central duo, of course, will dominate your attention. As Holmes, David Whalen manages to bring charm to a role that, drug-addicted misanthrope that Holmes is, could have ended up quite distasteful. Simon Bradbury's Watson has my affection for humanizing a character who could have gone far off the rails in a story like this — or faded into the background, as many a Watson before.
I don't want enthusiasm to scrub me entirely of critical faculty. I am relatively sure Watson exits one scene into what has been established as a closet, and the story frequently drops into comic-book stuff, albeit winkingly so, in its devices and even character motivations. That's one advantage stage has over page, of course — to see a physical person is to do most of the work in making an emotion believable, relatable — and presumably a reason the detective's afterlife on the stage has been so long.