Park Square’s Cross-Gender “Baskerville” is Triumphantly Entertaining

Photo by by Petronella J Ytsma.

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery is playwright Ken Ludwig’s kinetic spoof on the famous Arthur Conan Doyle novel, first serialized in 1901-02. At Park Square Theatre, two women play the legendary male roles of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, his assistant. The splendid McKenna Kelly-Eiding’s cerebral Sherlock is coolly assured with the proverbial English stiff upper lip, breezing along through twists, turns, and theories about the horrible supernatural hound wreaking havoc on a Devonshire country estate. Sara Richardson, though sometimes too high pitched for too long vocally, nonetheless plays Dr. Watson with an appealing mix of humility, credulity, and naivete.

Photo by by Petronella J Ytsma.

The astute Theo Langason has directed Baskerville with a masterful balance of the original’s Victorian spirit crossed with Ludwig’s madcap style. The effect is triumphantly entertaining, reminiscent of the 1960s films of Blake Edwards. The sparkling ensemble briskly conveys the mysterious story and their comic timing is superior.

Langason has dispensed with the standard way of conceiving an adaptation of an English classic, and paradoxically Baskerville glistens with the quintessence of the original. Colorblind casting of actors who fully adhere to the Doyle/Ludwig demands makes for magical delight and quick costume changes. You can imagine all of them being able to faithfully render a play by Oscar Wilde or Arthur Wing Pinero and transport you back to the Victorian Age. In other words, these young actors have impressive classical chops.

Photo by by Petronella J Ytsma.

Three marvelous supporting players, often crossing gender boundaries as well, deftly play multiple roles. Eric “Pogi” Sumangil is especially funny as a Texan who intrudes on the stuffy atmosphere. Versatile Marika Proctor ranges from eccentric housekeeper to a woman in love but reined in by a possessive brother. Ricardo Beaird is an utter comic genius. His physical comic imagination is hilariously exemplified in one of his many roles as the character struggles to move his body over boulders out on the moors where the diabolical hound lurks. This becomes a recurring action that milks the humor to just the right amount. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition of potential horror with silly human awkwardness. Proctor and Beaird also create two small roles that have the very look of the Artful Dodger and one of his fellow young rascals in Oliver Twist. Inspired!

Photo by by Petronella J Ytsma.

The exuberance and sense of period that Langason’s actors have infused into their execution is beautifully reinforced by a design team which also finesses quick changes and transitions just like the actors are compelled to: Eli Sherlock’s storybook set design, charming period costumes by Mandi Johnson, and evocative variations in Michael Kittel’s lighting. Peter Morrow’s sound design has a way of capturing the eerie quality of the original Doyle while spoofing it simultaneously.

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery 
Through Aug. 5
Park Square Theatre, 20 W. 7th Pl., St. Paul
651-291-7005
www.parksquaretheatre.org

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