What: Play adaptation by Helen Borgers of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, directed by Borgers, presented by Long Beach Shakespeare.
Where: Richard Goad Theatre, 4250 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach
When: Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through October 22.
Tickets: $20, $10 for students.
Information: (562) 997-1494, www.lbshakespeare.org
By John Farrell
The fog of Dartmoor rolled into the lobby of the Richard Goad Theatre Saturday night long before “Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles” was presented inside the 30-odd seat theater.
The effect was intended to be a dramatic one, though from the outside it looked more like several cigarette fiends had decided to attack with unhealthy criminal intent.
The air cleared, though, and the presentation of the play, in an original adaptation by the company's Artistic Director Helen Borgers, who was also the actual director of this production, proceeded with less smoke and mirrors and a surprisingly cogent and faithful adaptation of the original 1901 work by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Borgers, who is a Shakespearean expert by avocation, has as much respect for Conan Doyle as she does for the Bard, and kept most of the rich language of the text, and all of the situations in the book, intact. She also managed to make the play, restricted to the small stage of the Goad, a rip roaring good ghost story, with the occasional howls of the hound, heard in the background, keeping the audience on the edges of their comfortable seats. Her only problem: Doyle, in writing this story, leaves Sherlock Holmes out of much of the middle of the piece, and so she must as well.
That was a shame because Richard MacPherson, who played Holmes, was one of the best incarnations of the detective to make it to the small theater, with a sharp profile, a clear speaking voice and enough of the English accent to color every Holmesian remark with authority. Company regular Carl Wawrina had the bigger role as Watson, who goes down to Dartmoor with Sir Henry Baskerville (the clear-voiced and impressive Daniel Moseid) to protect Sir Henry and investigate the strange death of his uncle Sir Charles Baskerville, but he was less adept as Watson than MacPherson as Holmes, and didn't live up to MacPherson's stature. And it should be noted that the fact that he was writing to Holmes, who said he had to stay in London on business, was never clearly made out. In pursuit of textual accuracy a chance to get Holmes more involved in the mystery was missed.
Mike Austin was an amusing Dr. Mortimer, whose walking stick, left behind at Baker Street, was an amusing bit of mis-deduction by Watson. Kevin Douglas Dunn, as the Baskerville's household butler Barrymore, and Summer Gorbea as his wife, were perfect representatives of the ancient British serving class, and when Mrs. Barrymore was finally revealed as the sister of escaped convict, sympathy was more the feeling than horror.
Beryl Stapleton (Adrienne Marquand) was a lovely love interest for Sir Henry, though when she was discovered to be married to another it wasn't much of a surprise. James Stapleton (William Christopher Ford) was from the first a man who showed great curiosity about Sir Henry's business on the Moor, but it wasn't until the end of the play that he became more than just a country squire. Gorbea doubled in the small role of Laura Lyons. Perry sites had a small role as Frankland but, embarrassingly, went up on his lines and Wawrina was unable to help him much.
Borgers stuck to the text of the story but still managed to create, in the small space of the theater, a realistic battle between Holmes and Watson on one side and the fearful, if not really seen, Hound, who was shot and careened off across the moor without actually staining anyone with his make-up. The smoke, which was used mostly at the beginning (with a few Prison Guards looking for the escaped murderer Seldon) was dissipated by the play's end.
This isn't the definitive stage “Hound,” but then their probably isn't one. It is true to its sources, and gives a very clear and much appreciated look at the actual language used in the story, which is often otherwise neglected. Just be prepared for a little smoke at the beginning.