MONDAY, APRIL 8, 2013
It's So Nice To Return to Holmes
Liz Shipe's Sherlock Holmes and the Regrettable Engagement
By Russ Bickerstaff
Liz Shipe's second Sherlock Holmes thriller at the Brumder Mansion continues to provide a fresh perspective on the beloved character in another engrossing drama. The script is a delicately-balanced exploration into the psyches of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and the villainous Professor Moriarty. Shipe's dialogue is remarkably crisp and it rolls through the production with an enjoyable fluidity. There's a great deal of wit at the heart of the script that gets relatively dark in places. Staged at the Brumder, the audience is entrenched in the show and Shipe does some clever things to draw them in all the more without being too confrontational with the audience.
The ensemble is very well-balanced. Michael Traynor returns as a very energetic, young Holmes. In Traynor's portrayal of the character, we see someone who thrives on every last detail. He feels like a steampunk information junkie . . . there's a really impressively kinetic feel to his presence that continues to fit the role beautifully.
In the role of Dr. Watson, Max Hultquist plays the compassionate end of things that Traynor's Holmes simply does not have time for. Hultquist has a kind presence that you kind of wish your own doctor had. Here that presence fits as snug as puzzle piece into the larger dramatic dynamic that Shipe has woven into the plot. There's a real sense of emotional complexity between Holmes and Watson here and it's interesting to watch.
Gladys Rhodes Chmiel makes a more prominent appearance here as the ever-ingratiating Mrs. Hudson who delivers a sense of warmth to the production that draws-in the audience upon arrival at the Brumder. There's real compassion coming from the character in a script that feels more than willing to look to the margins of Doyle's stories to find inspiration.
Matthew Ecclestone has made a careful study of the villain Professor Moriarty. It's a kind of a sadistic darkness that he brings to the production. He's playing a Moriarty who has managed to sneak into Holmes' office. The villain at 221-B Baker Street adds a great deal of menace to the whole thing, but the pleasure Ecclestone brings to the role makes it all seem that much darker. He's found an interesting balance between careful mastermind and antipathetic madness in the role.
The rest of the ensemble is drawn into things with excellent balance. Tom Marks, Bryan Quinn and Shipe herself all have their moments here. Marks manages to take one of the biggest challenges offered to any actor by the script and make it look kind of easy…even if it's only onstage for a very brief moment. Quinn balances quite well between comic quips and moments that add just the right amount of tension. Shipe knows how to make an entrance . . . and she's given herself a rather nice one here that shows a clever understanding of what makes for memorable theatre.
Sherlock Holmes and the Regrettable Engagement runs through May 5th at the Brumder Mansion on 3046 West Wisconsin Avenue. For ticket reservations, call 414-388-9104 or visit Milwaukee Entertainment Group online.