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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 29 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 48
Doggone great - Seattle Rep's Hound of the Baskervilles has real bite
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Doggone great - Seattle Rep's Hound of the Baskervilles has real bite

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
SEATTLE REPERTORY THEATRE
Through December 15


A homegrown adaptation of a ripping Sherlock Holmes tale is getting an inventive staging at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Adaptor-actor-writers R. Hamilton Wright and David Pichette have taken this mystery - with the help of creative projections, evocative lighting, and stripped-down staging, all by talented L.B. Morse, period-precise costuming by Deborah Trout, and eerie soundscaping by Paul James Prendergast - and added a dash of tongue firmly planted in cheek drawing to a haunted conclusion.

The technical requirements of a story that ranges from densely urban London to the wilds of a manor in the midst of mires and quicksand is pretty breathtaking. So, those aspects must be firmly in place to even attempt this kind of play. Allison Narver directs and pulls all the disparate elements together, including a hearty helping of stalwart Seattle regulars.

Rob Burgess, Quinn Franzen, Basil Harris, Darragh Kennan, Hana Lass, Charles Leggett, and Marianne Owen all play various roles, though each has a particular character we see most. Andrew McGinn and Connor Toms play only one each. While everyone did a great job, the most hysterically funny were a grim and frightening Owen as a woman servant (shades of American Gothic!), and Kennan as an elderly parson at the dinner party.

Being careful not to ruin several surprises, there is a new heir to the Baskerville family seat, Sir Henry (Toms) - or Hank, as he prefers - who arrives from America convinced that the family curse is bunk, although the most recent master of the manor has just been killed, possibly by this mysterious Hound! Sherlock Holmes (Kennan) is presented with the mysterious death and takes it seriously enough to send trusty Dr. Watson (McGinn) to accompany Henry to the manor and to stay by his side at all times.

DID THE DOG DO IT? Watson is to gather information and send it to Holmes, and to get to know all the neighbors and servants as well. Hank decides to have a dinner party to get to know everyone, and the stage is set to discover whether the Hound is real or not and how the death occurred. Could it be instead the convict who has gotten loose from the jail? Or were those hound tracks found around the body from a real, if huge, animal?

While it's a three-act play with two intermissions, much of it flies by, filled with moments of amazing theatricality, using wonderful period projections of London environs (there is also a brief, choreographed segment of a bustling London street with help from Crystal Dawn Munkers). The characterizations are serious, but often great fun to laugh at. The mystery is not at all scary, but definitely gets more mysterious before the surprise revelations at the end. The wrap-up is satisfactory, with all questions clearly answered, but hopefully not the answers you were expecting.

In fact, this is a great family play, where children from perhaps 11 up can be introduced to the intellect of Sherlock Holmes and maybe decide they'd like to read the book afterward! It can also be great 'counter-holiday' programming for those who don't want to immerse themselves ceaselessly in Yuletide sentiment. For more information, go to www.seattlerep.org or call (206) 443-2222.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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