The works of playwright Jeffrey Hatcher are excellent for two reasons: his structure of complex plots and his indulgence in the classic “whodunnit” form.
In Hatchers work, said complex plots usually wrap up quite nicely at the play’s conclusion, most notably in his earlier “Scotland Road” about an obsessed fan of the Titanic disaster and the lengths that he goes to be associated with it. An excellent play to be sought out next time it happens to be in performance.
With Holmes and Watson, Hatcher practically cannibalizes his own work and recycles stock characters to further a plot that he’s trod before. The protagonist John of Scotland Road is now Dr. Watson (or who they purport to be) and Dr. Halbrech of the aforementioned previous work is now Dr. Evans who runs the asylum. Both plays are populated with people who pretend to be someone else, as all good mysteries should.
There are many more similarities in both works but it doesn’t detract from the good performance now playing at the Long Beach Playhouse.
Noah Wagner leads with masterful aplomb in his embodiment of Dr. Watson. Confident and right on point with his performance and his ultimate reveal of his true intentions is a joy to watch. His work with Theater Banshee and the Long Beach Historical Society has all led up to his sharp portrayals at the Long Beach Playhouse.
While Eldon Callaway was quite entertaining and present as Dr. Evans, he drifted in and out of his British accent a bit too much as his performance seemed to still be in rehearsal.
Michael Paul King stole the show in three separate roles. Bombastic and playing to the back row, he was a terrific physical presence with perfect comedic timing, particularly as Prof. Moriarty. Razor sharp and keen in all three roles.
The supporting cast of Kyla Druckman, Steve Shane, Nik Lillard and Jack Murphy was superb, playing several roles each, doing double duty and chewing up the scenery in places. No mind as they kept things moving well.
Direction by Mitchell Nunn was proficient as the actors blocking and movement worked well in the thrust stage as evidenced by a beautiful ending and the clever use of silks, shadows and silhouettes. The hope is that the director might run a few more rehearsals with the stage tech to synchronize lighting and sound cues a bit better than they were at last night’s performance. Actors would stand in shadows as they began monologues upstage while the silk began the illusion of the waterfall, often becoming engulfed in far too much fog. Ditto on the gunfire.
Overall, you’ve seen this play before in the more capable hands of Agatha Christie or on an old episode of Scooby-Doo. One almost expects the villain to utter “…and I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!” Nonetheless, it is recommended if you’re a fan of history, mysteries and whodunnits. Kudos to the entire cast and production team.
Runs through 10/22/2022 at the Long Beach Playhouse 5021 Anaheim Blvd. Long Beach CA 90804