The Hound of the Baskervilles
City Lit Theater (see Resident companies). Adapted from Arthur Conan Doyle by Terry McCabe. Dir. Kevin Theis. With Don Bender, Will Schutz.
Hot cocoa, a warm blanket and a lukewarm whodunit: Such are the associations conjured up by McCabe’s cozy adaptation of Doyle’s Holmes-and-Watson serial. McCabe lays emphasis on mystery-as-storytelling, with narrator Watson (Schutz) smoothly blending description with action. The English beagle’s latest case features a family curse involving a massive, murderous, vengeance-hungry hound that’s supposedly plagued the Baskerville family for generations and may have recently claimed its latest victim. Can Holmes (Bender) solve the mystery before the last heir gets snuffed? Director Theis fortunately keeps his actors just this side of too-affectedly Eeenglish, with Bender and Schutz credible as the smug sleuth and his devoted sidekick; like McCabe, Theis offers us story time, with a few theatrical touches (mood-setting lighting and sound from Sean Mallary and Robert Steel, respectively).
But during the second half, as Watson travels with the young Baskerville to his moor-set estate and reports back to Holmes, too many details mount up. By the time the cast’s one actress has donned wig number three, things get fairly muddled—and yet Hound has a fairly simple inheritance-scheme plot. Making the second half tougher-going still is Holmes’s absence, removing the plot’s engine; “I wish that he were here,” Watson says, voicing a sentiment we share. When the anticlimactic solution trades in the device of nice-seeming guys who are really baddies, the warm blanket lulls us toward slumber.—Novid Parsi