Entertainment :: Theatre

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol

by J. Autumn Needles
Contributor
Monday Nov 26, 2012
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Aaron Lamb and Terry Edward Moore
Aaron Lamb and Terry Edward Moore  (Source:Erik Stuhaug)

If you enjoy the story of "A Christmas Carol," you’ll enjoy Taproot Theatre’s holiday offering of John Longenbaugh’s "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol." Directed by Scott Nolte, this production cleverly combines the Sherlock Holmes stories with the classic tale by Dickens.

The story is set on Christmas Eve in 1894 at Holmes’s residence at 221B Baker Street in London. Originally, writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had planned to kill off his great detective, Sherlock Holmes, and created a spectacular death scene where Holmes plunges to his death with his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, over a waterfall.

Forced by fans to bring the detective back, Doyle continued the series later, bringing Holmes back from the dead. Longenbaugh’s play takes place during the time between the two, when Holmes has returned from his traumatic experience in a funk, turning away from all his old friends and his old activities in a Scrooge-like way.

On Christmas Eve Sherlock Holmes (Terry Edward Moore) is visited in succession by the few people who are close to him. Watson (Stephen Grenley), who has been recently widowed, stops in to see what game might be afoot, only to be turned away and insulted by his old companion.

Mrs. Hudson (Pam Nolte) tries to tidy up the room, but Holmes shuns her as well, declaring his intention to seek lodging elsewhere away from her prying eyes. Lestrade (Ryan Childers), the police officer from the series, comes calling seeking help with a case (Lestrade: "I hear your voice! I know you’re in there!" Holmes: "A masterful deduction."), but Holmes makes fun of him and sends him on his way.

From Mrs. Hudson we learn that some of the Baker Street Irregulars, the young street urchins whom Holmes has relied upon as his eyes and ears in the city, have also come looking for his help and support for one of their own, only to be ignored.

Having insulted and pushed away everyone in his life, Holmes is left alone only to be visited by the ghost of Moriarty (Aaron Lamb). In a funny little scene, Holmes works his way through his methodical process of deduction to conclude that Moriarty is, in fact, a ghost, even putting him to the test of shooting him!

Moriarty warns Holmes that he will become just like Moriarty if he doesn’t change his ways. Holmes scoffs at him, laughing at the suggestion that Holmes could ever have anything in common with Moriarty, but Moriarty promises visits by three spirits, then vanishes and soon the First Spirit (Pam Nolte) comes calling.

In a funny little scene, Holmes works his way through his methodical process of deduction to conclude that Moriarty is, in fact, a ghost, even putting him to the test of shooting him!

As in "A Christmas Carol," the three spirits show Holmes his past, present and future, demonstrating to him that "to deduce is not to know," as the Second Spirit (Aaron Lamb) says. Holmes becomes more and more saddened by what he sees, especially when he hears people in the future referring to someone called "The Professor" who has made a terrifying new weapon.

Fearing that somehow Moriarty has survived his fall, he asks to see "The Professor" who turns out to be Holmes himself, turned even more inward away from any human feeling. When he asks why Watson didn’t stop him, the Third Spirit (Stephen Grenley) takes him to Watson’s grave.

Finally realizing that he is creating this possible future, he returns to his own time and, just as Scrooge did, rushes out to make things right again with the people who care about him and who depend on him.

The set, designed by Mark Lund, is simple, showing the brownstone exterior and external door, around and next to Holmes’s sitting room with its internal door, all done in an open plan so the action can move easily to all the different locations called for. Costumes (designed by Sarah Burch Gordon) are lush and pleasingly perfect for the period.

There’s a lovely nod to the original story when Watson is talking with his Uncle Tim, who walks with a cane, and it becomes apparent that Tim is actually Tiny Tim, telling Watson the original story of "A Christmas Carol."

Moore plays Sherlock as absent and brusque, sometimes with a marvelously sharp and knowing wit, and other times just as witty but in a naïve and unworldly way, which brings a nice depth to the character. Everyone but Moore plays multiple roles, and the costume and character shifts are seamless and clear. Childers in particular is always a pleasure to watch as he takes on his set of roles.

If you want a Holmesian flavor and charming cleverness with your classic Christmas story, Taproot is the place for you!

"Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol" runs through Dec. 29 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St. in Seattle. For info or tickets, call 206-781-9707 or visit online at taproottheatre.org.

J. Autumn Needles lives in Seattle where she writes and teaches yoga and fitness.

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