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The Hound of the Baskervilles at Kinetic Theatre

It’s Sherlock for laughs

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“Once more into the breach!” Or so I imagine David Whalen said as he slipped on his red smoking jacket for his fourth portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, here for Kinetic Theatre Company’s production of The House of the Baskervilles, adapted from Arthur Conan Doyle by Steven Canny and John Nicholson.

Whalen previously appeared in three other Holmes tales in Pittsburgh, two (The Mask of Moriarty and The Crucifer of Blood) with PICT Classic Theatre and last year, for Kinetic, Sherlock’s Last Case. Each had a different adapter and director, and each emphasized different elements of the canon’s comedy, mystery or thriller aspects.

This Baskerville focuses solely on the laughs and reunites Whalen and Andrew Paul, his director from last year (and Kinetic’s artistic director). While it’s a send-up of Baskervilles (a man moves home to his country seat, where his male relatives have all died under mysterious circumstances), in the end, the novel doesn’t prove that important.

The evening is really about Whalen, along with James FitzGerald and Connor McCanlus, playing the story’s 20 or so characters. Much of the attraction is watching the cast make lightning-fast costume changes even as they shove set pieces on and off stage while trying to navigate props, plot and dialects with occasional stops to break the fourth wall and address us directly. If you’ve seen the stage version of The 39 Steps or The Complete Work of William Shakespeare (Abridged), that should give you an idea.

I’m happy to salute the protean work of all three of these actors who can fly around the stage like dervishes but still find occasion in the middle of the madness to provide firm footing; thanks also to Paul for managing this chaos. The set, lights and costumes (Johnmichael Bohach, Jenna Ferree and Kim Brown respectively) all add color and fun to the proceedings.

Ultimately, this is an evening of silliness and, truth be told, not really all that inspired. But while it sort of runs out of steam toward the end, there are still lots of laugh to be had.

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