In its Vegas debut, Jeffrey Hatcher's play Holmes and Watson picks up where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous 1890s detective stories leave off. It's been several years since the ingenious British sleuth (presumably) fell to his death battling the evil Professor James Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. In search of his lost partner, the devout sidekick Dr. Watson follows a tip to a remote Scottish island, where a mental asylum holds three inmates claiming to be Sherlock Holmes. Watson interviews them all in search of his real friend ... but all is not what it seems.
"It's exciting. It's fun. It's heightened. It's tense, it's adventurous, and it's family-friendly," actor Marcus Weiss—who also stars in Celestia at the Strat—says of Holmes and Watson. "It's funny and highly dramatic."
Weiss plays Watson as someone who's "always feeling something out." It's a very satisfying role for Weiss, who says he loves to inhabit a character's unique vocal and physical being: "It's something that, as an actor, I love to chew on."
With so many surprises in store, the audience must stay on its toes. "Invariably, they come to the wrong solution, which is great because we can pull the carpet out from under them," director Andrew Paul says. "They can really have a good laugh at the end when they realize they've been had."
There's no need to study up before seeing Holmes and Watson, because its narrative stands alone. If you do know your way around the Holmes universe, however, keep an eye out for Easter eggs. Paul says that the play is "loaded with stuff for the cognoscenti," adding, "but you really don't need [to know] any of that in order to enjoy the play."
Holmes and Watson might be inspired by a great literary work, but that doesn't make it heavy—or long. Paul says the play runs 80 minutes, with no intermission. "We don't want anybody stopping to think too much," Paul says. "[The play] starts pretty fast. And it just gets faster and faster. And the more disconcerted the audience gets, the more fun we're having ... because they're trying to pick up on all the red herrings and clues we're throwing out at them."
To help nail all the British and Scottish accents, the play employs dialect coach Christina Gardner. Actor Geo Nikols has been perfecting his British RP accent (that's what the Queen speaks) for his role as Sherlock No. 1. He calls that "really fun and really challenging." Another actor, Bryan Todd, must learn four dialects: Scottish, Cockney and "two posh British accents."
Overall, audiences should be pleased with this Vegas Theatre Company production. "Who doesn't love a good mystery?" says actor Christopher Brown, who plays Sherlock No. 2. "That's what this is all about."
Holmes and Watson Thru December 8, dates & times vary, $15-$33. Art Square Theatre, 725-222-9661.