11 December 2013

Who Let the Dogs Out (sorry, I couldn't help myself): A Review of "The Hound of the Baskervilles"

Photo: Rich Wagner
Sherlock Holmes has become big once again on the screen (big and small -- twice), and, whenever an icon like Holmes returns, it makes one ponder what aspect of the character the culture deems itself to be lacking.  I really have no idea in this case (given that neither the film nor television version resembles Doyle’s detective), but here’s hoping that it’s simply the recognition that intelligence is a good thing.  (Certainly way too few of our public and popular figures seem to possess it, or, if they do, they continue to do a very, very good job of hiding that fact.)

But Holmes, as played by the hilarious Rich Hollman, returns to Connecticut in a wonderful way this holiday season as the lead character in Playhouse on Park’s three-man production of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Steven Canney and John Nicholson.  This fast-paced, every-actor-plays-multiple-characters-in-a-ridiculously-daft-way show is the kind of production in which Playhouse on Park has excelled these past few years, e.g., The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and The Mystery of Irma Vep, and its Victorian mojo recalls their Around the World In 80 Days (which remains one of this critic’s favorite productions at POP).

Tom Ridgely returns as director, and, under his deft touch, Hollman, with Brennan Caldwell (various Baskervilles, et alia) and POP co-artistic director Sean Harris (Watson, et alia), get to have so much fun that the audience can’t help but to enjoy the ride.  Indeed, the three very talented actors clearly enjoy each other so much on stage that the improvised beginnings of the two acts are even more hilarious than the rest of the script (which, truth be told, drags a bit here and there…through no fault of the acting or direction).  Among the many, many comic highlights are Hollman’s portrayal of a horse swallowed by a swamp (twice), Caldwell’s fear of ghosts, and Harris’ Watson’s need to be loved.

The Playhouse’s technical team once again delivers a clean, well detailed, and nicely executed production.

At this time of year, audiences seek warmth and, well…for lack of a better term, joy.  Playhouse on Park’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, which runs through December 22, provides just that.  A touch of mystery, a lotta laughter, and not a little silliness…just the perfect holiday brew.

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