Baskerville at Long Wharf Theatre

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

Sherlock Holmes has been a popular character- in books, movies and plays. Here, in ‘Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,’ he is played for laughs.

Sometimes that can be a good thing- and genuinely funny. Maybe the funniest sleuthing detective was Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther movies. There will even be a new comedy scheduled for this Christmas called ‘Holmes and Watson’ that will star Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.

And, similarly, Alfred Hitchcock was cleverly played for laughs in the hilarious comedy, ‘The 39 Steps,’ which used 4 actors, 3 of whom played about a hundred different roles.

Photos: T Charles Erickson

‘Baskerville,’ which is running at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven through March 25th, attempts something similar: the murder/mystery- whodunit-comedy with a handful of actors, most of whom play many roles. I just recently reviewed Broadway’s ‘The Play that Goes Wrong’ which also has similar slapstick silliness with a murder mystery.

Here, in ‘Baskerville’- or ‘Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery’ (to give you it’s full title) the energetic cast of 5 is ably assisted by the wardrobe team, who makes all those lightning quick costume changes work on schedule.

Tim Mackabee’s sets had some clever moments. And those costumes, by Lex Liang, are excellent. As is the sound design by Victoria Deiorio. Also Jason Hayes’ wig and hair design. Lighting by Robert Wierzel, too. And, other than ‘the 39 Steps,’ I can’t recall another show where the wardrobe team takes a bow with the cast; it shows how their ability to make the costume changes happen so quickly was crucial to this show. But, under Brendon Fox’s over-the-top direction, everyone in the cast seems to be trying too hard- and overacting too much- for it to be really funny.

Now author Ken Ludwig has found much success mining fast-paced silly humor before, particularly with his ‘Lend Me a Tenor,’ a huge comedy hit.I will tell you, there were many in the audience who did laugh often here- especially the really loud woman behind me who had a machine gun laugh that was so incredibly annoying. But, clearly, she found it quite funny.

And I can enjoy slapstick and silliness, when I find it done really well- as in ‘The 39 Steps’- and even ‘The Play That Goes Wrong.’ Certainly many Monty Python sketches and movies.

‘Baskerville,’ however, is too over-the-top and becomes more silly than funny. The cast is led by Alex Moggridge as Sherlock Holmes and Daniel Pearce as Doctor Watson, who also narrates. That leaves Kelly Hutchinson, Christopher Livingston and Brian Owen to play all the other dozens of roles. Brian Owen, in particular, is clearly a talented physical comedian. And I give him big kudos for how he falls and flips over backwards while getting blown away by an imagined heavy wind in Act 2. That moment was fun.

But, on balance, he just overacted so much that several lines simply got lost in the bombast. And I get that was intentional. I just didn’t find it funny. Though, again, some in the audience did. So, to each his own and, while I laud the technical and physical prowess of the production team, the show didn’t really tickle my funny bone and I give ‘Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery’ 2 stars out of 5. But, perhaps you might enjoy it more than I did. It runs at Long Wharf in New Haven through March 25th.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews. This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”

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