If the glut of true crime programming and procedural dramas on television tells us anything, it’s that people love a mystery. While there may be a certain increased fascination of late, the love of mysteries and those who can solve them is hardly new.
In fact, it’s as old as…well, Sherlock Holmes. Long a favorite fictional character, going back to early stage and screen adaptations, it’s hard to go wrong when you put Holmes and his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson on the case.
That point is proven once again with a charming and engaging production from all for One, the first show of its 2019-20 season. Sherlock Holmes and the 1st Baker Street Irregular is a deft and hilarious take on the confident sleuth, one in which he solves a crime with the help of a few surprising assistants.
With a fast-moving and bloodless tale of misdeeds at the center of the action, two seemingly incongruent worlds collide. As the young “Irregulars” live life on the streets, searching daily for their chance to snag a meal and a bit of warmth, Holmes and company live a life far removed from such challenges, secure in their warm sitting room whilst pondering mental puzzles.
Bringing them together is Wiggins, a wily and determined member of the Irregulars who looks for a way out of their dire circumstances. The young performers who bring the Irregulars to life are well-cast and bring both the spirit and the Cockney accents of their characters to life. There is also a fine group of supporting characters who bring humor and pathos to their more limited roles.
But the scenes that truly shine are the ones which feature the play’s “core four”: Nate Chen as Holmes, Matthew Williams as Watson, Jen Netting as Mrs. Hudson, and the show’s real find, Josette Wilhelm as Wiggins. When that quartet gathers in the Holmes sitting room, there’s always a sense that something good is about to happen, be it a break in the case or a good belly laugh. The chemistry among them is dynamic even in scenes that are low key and actionless.
As always the sets are perfect, with all for One particularly adept at period pieces and the sets and costumes which make them shine. The comfortable Holmes home coexists on stage with the London street scene which even features Big Ben hovering in the distance. Flashback sequences flowed perfectly as characters were able to flow from one side of the stage to another to accommodate the changes in narrative time.
Finally, one can never say enough about the all for One program which reliably provides fun and insightful context for the production.
Fans of Sherlock Holmes will enjoy what may be well-known trivia while less rabid fans may delight in some interesting historical facts.
Spoiler alert: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tried to bump off Sherlock but has to bring him back to life. That failure has been good news for all of us, however. Sherlock Holmes lives forever, as all for One proves once again.
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