Mystery Lit: Holmes, Sherlock and the Consulting Detective
Reviewed by Dana Martin
Unbound Productions at the Santa Anita Train Depot
Through July 1st
What do you get when you combine three storylines, a gorgeous setting, a whirlwind of characters and plot so thick and thorny it’ll make your head spin? It’s elementary, actually.
Set in the gorgeous historic Santa Anita Train Depot, Jonathan Josephson’s Mystery Lit: Holmes, Sherlock and the Consulting Detective is at best a hit-and-miss evening of theatre. Hashing out the finer plot details takes some serious sleuthing. Suffice it to say that there is a mystery to be solved —but what that mystery is, exactly, is shrouded in mystery.
The production itself leans toward readers’ theatre, as much of the plot is detail and description rather than action. The characters describe, recount and run around, but rarely do we see events actually take place in front of us. Although described as immersive theatre, there was nothing particularly immersive about it. A more appropriate term would be site-specific theatre, since moving the audience to various seating/standing arrangements does not immersive theatre make. I wasn’t being immersed in the action — instead, I stood and watched 3 totally confusing scenes unfold. Color me cranky, dear Watson.
The actors understood the world of the play and communicated it well, despite the endless exposition. A particular standout was Joe Camareno as the warm and trustworthy Watson, whom the audience depends on to gauge the tone of the play. Paul Romero’s Sherlock is suave and understated. Kevin Dulude, Aaron McGee, John Leslie and Robert Paterno add a light, silly quality to the evening as a merry band of idiots: policemen by day, actors by night.
The technical and design elements were impressive. I was drawn in immediately as the first scene reveals not one but three Sherlocks — or more specifically, Holmes, Sherlock, and the Consulting Detective — on the deck of the train station. The train whistle sounds and steam rises as the train leaves the station, creating a beautiful metaphor and excellent ambience throughout the evening (stellar work by sound designer Drew Dalzell). Costume designer Christine Cover Ferro nails the time period, and her attention to detail is impeccable. Director Paul Millet brings life and movement to a script overburdened by detail and description.
Mystery Lit has all of the elements of great theatre, though I left the depot frustrated and with far too many questions about the story itself. How these individual elements might blend together to create a cohesive and satisfying evening of theatre remains… well, a mystery.
Unbound Productions at the Santa Anita Train Depot, 159 South Baldwin Ave., Arcadia; weekly schedule varies, through July 1st; http://unboundproductions.org/sherlock-holmes-play/ or 323-332-2065. Running time:1 hour 45 minutes with an intermission.
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