Two out of Seattle Repertory’s three productions thus far this season have been world premiers, including the “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” adapted for the stage by David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright. Many audiences will already be familiar with the Sherlock Holmes mystery, in which the detective investigates hauntings by the eponymous hound and must deal with a cast of unusual suspects. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original crime novel turned the beautiful Dartmoor in southern Devon county into a wild of deep fog and deadly mires. The setting may be murky and misty, but the play and the acting keep everything quite fresh.
As the story opens, the hound has already claimed one victim, the late Sir Charles, whose passing has endowed the young bachelor Sir Henry (Conner Toms) with his estate…and perhaps a curse. As he naively sets out to claim his inheritance, another relative puts Sherlock Holmes (Darragh Kennan) and Watson (Andrew McGinn) on the case to protect him and determine what is really happening at Baskerville Hall and the moors that surround it. Everyone is suspect: the beautiful Beryle (Hana Lass) sister to naturalist Stapleton (Quinn Franzen), the mischievous Mortimer (Basil Harris), and the butlers who know all too much, Mr. and Mrs. Barrymore (Rob Burgess and Marianne Owen).
Sherlock Holmes, a seminal figure of the murder mystery genre, continues to fascinate audiences and remain a pop-cultural icon. Network television shows that make Holmes contemporary and big screen movies that turn him into a pit-fighting action hero speak to how Holmes was also a forebear of “the rogue cop” so familiar to audiences today. His complexity gives him timeless relevance. As director Allison Narver so eloquently puts it “[Holmes] is a man of many contradictions: Einstein brilliant in areas to his work and an ignoramus in others. A defender of Victorian values of order and loyalty, and a slovenly, self absorbed, thrill-seeking drug addict in others. Insufferably superior, but painstakingly sensitive to human nature when it serves him. A driven passionate man with few if any of the normal emotions, no typical hero.” It is a delight to see Holmes brought to life on stage by Darragh Kennan with humor and humanity and without anachronism.
The artistic production side of this show is remarkable, as it must be to convey the expansive settings. L.B Morse as lighting and scenic designer achieves wonders as scenes shift from the bustling streets of London to the quiet and haunted moors of Dartmoor. The costuming by Deborah Trout is eye-catching and appropriate and reveals a surprising amount of information about the characters. Seattle Rep’s “Hound of the Baskervilles” is a fun-filled, twisted and intelligent portrayal of Doyle’s story. Even if you know how it ends, it’s worth taking the journey with Holmes and seeing the mystery unfold for yourself.
“The Hound of the Baskervilles” plays through December 15.
Sherlock Holmes continues to fascinate audiences well after the influence of The Enlightenment and Victorian eras in which the character became a defining persona in pop-culture. Network television shows that make this character contemporary and big screen movies that turn him into a pit-fighting action hero in line with the rogue cop genre, are evidence that the complexities of Sherlock Holmes lend this character to a timeless relvance even in modern society.