Regional Reviews: Phoenix
There are a lot of surprises in store for audience members so I will try to not reveal anything of importance in this plot overview. It's been almost three years since Holmes' duel with Professor Moriarty that left both men presumed dead after falling into the forceful waters at Reichenbach Falls. But is Holmes dead or did he just disappear? Since then, many men have come forward claiming to be Holmes, and his trusted sidekick Dr. Watson has been the only individual able to determine if any of them were telling the truth. But none were. Now, three more men all claim to be Holmes, and Watson is summoned to an asylum on a remote island to determine which, if any, is actually the famous detective.
Hatcher has crafted an intelligent mystery thriller that uses the famous death of the detective that Conan Doyle depicted in his novel "The Final Problem" as a perfect launching pad for a drama filled with both intrigue and humor. The dialogue is reminiscent of the style of Conan Doyle, and Hatcher also incorporates familiar characters from the Holmes mysteries, such as Moriarty and Irene Adler, into the layered yet easy to follow plot. This makes it both a treat for Conan Doyle fans as well as a nice introduction to the mysterious world of Holmes for anyone unfamiliar with the characters of the books. It's also very smartly written with no forced or false plot reveals and a play that I believe would be just as enjoyable on a second viewing to see how intelligently Hatcher builds and foreshadows the twists. While Hatcher's Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club was a good play, his Holmes and Watson is a great one.
The ATC cast, under David Ira Goldstein's smart and swift direction, deliver superb portrayals. R Hamilton Wright and Philip Goodwin are the two doctors of the pieceDr. Watson and Dr. Evans, the head of the asylum. They do exceptionally well in portraying these very different men who have the same missionto discover just who is the real Sherlock Holmes. Noah Racey, James Michael Reilly, and Remi Sandri all play vastly different and unique individuals as the three men who claim they are Holmes, yet are all are absolutely believable as the famous detective. This keeps you constantly guessing about who the real Holmes might be. Stephen D'Ambrose and Carrie Paff portray the assistants at the asylum as well as a couple of other characters in the flashback scenes with extreme dexterity.
The creative elements are sensational. The combination of John Ezell's excellent two tiered set design, which is full of angular elements, staircases, balconies and many gothic and period perfect touches, with the stunning animated projections by Jeffrey Teeter, that depict a train arriving in a station, a boat journey over water, the tremendous Reichenbach Falls, and the dank and dark walls of the asylum, with Don Darnutzer's lush lighting and Brian Jerome Peterson's chilling sound design results in some stunning stage images. Matthew LeFebvre's costume designs are equally as good, providing both period touches and mysterious elements.
Full of intrigue as well as a few big laughs, Holmes and Watson is a very worthy addition to the many Sherlock Holmes stage and film adaptations. With an excellent cast and spot on production elements, Arizona Theatre Company's production is exceptional and a fitting end to the company's 50th anniversary season.
Holmes and Watson at Arizona Theatre Company through May 28th, 2017, at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe Street in Phoenix. Tickets can be purchased at www.arizonatheatre.org or by calling (602) 256 6995.
Playwright: Jeffrey Hatcher