Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Holmes and Watson
Arizona Theatre Company
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of Beehive, Lea Salonga in Concert, My Man Godfrey, and Macbeth

The Cast
Photo by Tim Fuller
Jeffrey Hatcher has written numerous plays and screenplays over the past 25 years, including the script for the 2015 film Mr. Holmes that starred Ian McKellen as a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective also starred in Hatcher's 2011 play Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club which premiered at Arizona Theatre Company. His latest thriller, Holmes and Watson, also focuses on the famous detective and his friend Dr. Watson, and is receiving its world premiere at ATC. This is a truly smashing play full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Arizona Theatre's production features an outstanding cast and some stunning creative elements.

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 piece—Dr. Watson and Dr. Evans, the head of the asylum. They do exceptionally well in portraying these very different men who have the same mission—to 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 or by calling (602) 256 – 6995.

Playwright: Jeffrey Hatcher
Director: David Ira Goldstein
Scenic Design: John Ezell
Costume Designer: Matthew LeFebvre
Lighting Designer: Don Darnutzer
Sound Designer: Brian Jerome Peterson
Composer: Roberta Carlson
Projection Designer: Jeffrey Teeter
Fight Coordinator: David Barker
Dialect Coach: David Morden
Production Stage Manager: Glenn Bruner

Orderly: Stephen D'Ambrose
Dr. Evans: Philip Goodwin
Patient 2: Noah Racey
Patient 1: James Michael Reilly
Matron: Carrie Paff
Patient 3: Remi Sandri
John Watson: R Hamilton Wright

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