It’s an Alley Theatre tradition to bring light-hearted mystery fare to the stage during the summer months. In previous years, theatergoers have enjoyed Agatha Christie, last year’s hilarious Hitchcock romp, “The 39 Steps,” and this year, “Holmes and Watson,” the latest reinvention of Sherlock Holmes courtesy of award-winning playwright Jeffrey Hatcher.
Can we all agree, especially in serious times like these, that venturing out with family or friends to escape into the twists and turns of a not-so-serious whodunit has inescapable appeal? Especially when we’re in the midst the throes of a Houston summer, and a British thriller inevitably involves thunderstorms, cozy fires and pretend cups of steaming hot tea?
No, it’s not ground-breaking theatre, but a whole lot of fun to sink into a classic detective fiction steeped in the characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. “Elementary,” you might even say, channeling our friend Holmes.
The plot revolves around the apparent death of super sleuth Holmes, known for his astute observations, brilliant and brooding ways and an amazing ability to finesse a pipe and magnifying glass simultaneously. Holmes’ stalwart companion, Dr. Watson, receives a telegram that suggests his old friend may still be alive. Eventually, Watson determines he must travel to a remote asylum off the coast of Scotland, where he finds three patients who are each claiming to be the late sleuth.
This grand adventure of “Holmes and Watson” focuses on the long friendship between the two. Director Mark Shanahan, writing about the play, notes that Holmes once had occasion to declare, “Good old Watson! You are the one ﬁxed point in a changing age!”
Shanahan also points out that fans of the Baker Street detective wouldn’t accept the character’s death when Doyle first attempted to kill him off in a short story in 1893. Modern-day fans, whose deductive reasoning ability will be put to the test with “Holmes & Watson,” will also be happy that Doyle finally relented.
The play “is tight and clever and full of suspense—and has enough red herrings to feed a family of 40,” wrote a reviewer from the Arizona Daily Star. In the Houston version at Alley’s Hubbard Theatre, the play features a favorite comedic actress, Elizabeth Bunch, as well as Jay Sullivan as Holmes I, Dan Domingues as Holmes II and Chris Hutchins as Holmes III.
“Holmes and Watson” runs from June 22 to July 22 and is suitable for general audiences. Buy tickets here, or call 713 220-5700.
Cover photo Lynn Lane