Super Sleuth Sherlock Holmes Opens Austin Playhouse Season

by Sarah Ribeiro on September 11, 2019 in Entertainment, Theatre, Austin,
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A Victorian mental asylum. A thrilling arch nemesis. And, the inimical detective duo of Holmes and Watson. What better way for Austin Playhouse to celebrate their 20th anniversary?

Written by award-winning playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, ‘Holmes and Watson’ runs through September 29.

Set in the 1890s in a mental asylum off the coast of England, this 75-minute production (pro tip: no intermission) captivates the audience from start to finish.

The show opens with Hatcher playing tribute to the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) as Dr. Watson (David Stahl) reads from his legendary journals, bringing Holmes to life through the observations of his trusty sidekick.

As the thriller unfolds, the audience learns that Holmes was presumed dead three years prior, after falling over the Reichenbach Falls with his nemesis, Professor Moriarty. The bodies were never recovered, leaving room for the asylum’s head physician, Dr. Evans (Toby Minor), to declare that three of his patients claim to be Sherlock Holmes, thus making Watson feel compelled to investigate.

Once Dr. Watson meets the curious trio, the charade begins. The first Holmes (Rick Roemer) is a sophisticated, well-spoken gentleman, representing the refined version of Holmes. This version is the one you would find conversing with royals over high tea or at the opera. The second Holmes, (Huck Huckaby), chooses to be confined to a straitjacket, has unruly hair, and moves with erratic motions. And, he’s filled with shame and guilt. This second alleged version of Holmes represents the addict and mentally unstable character of Doyle’s stories.

Scott Shipman, Huck Huckaby and Rick Roemer as the three asylum inmates claiming to be the real Sherlock Holmes. See ‘Holmes and Watson’ at Austin Playhouse through September 29. Photo courtesy Austin Playhouse

Finally, Holmes number three. Scott Shipman does an excellent job in the role, appearing to be deaf, blind and unable to speak until he is hypnotized by Dr. Evans. This version of Holmes represents the chameleon that we know Holmes to be from Doyle’s stories. The only common connection all three Holmes have is “the woman.” (If you’ve read Doyle’s ‘The Scandal in Bohemia,’ you’ll know which woman.)

The twisting plot keeps the audience guessing. In true Conan Doyle fashion, ‘Holmes and Watson’ director Don Toner brings this mystery to a surprising conclusion as the true Sherlock Holmes is revealed.

This charming play has an intimate and simple set, allowing the actors to fill the stage with their engaging dialogue and witty humor. The cast does an excellent job of moving from drama to comedy and takes the audience along for the ride.

This is a must-see performance by Austin’s own leading actors, that are notedly part of the Actor’s Equity Association (the labor union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers nationwide). It’s a delightful way to kick off Austin Playhouse’s 20th Anniversary season. The play is perfect for the loyal Holmes fan, and can stand on its own for those who are not familiar with the works of Conan Doyle or the trove of Sherlock Holmes fan fiction spanning all the way to the modern age.

Performances of ‘Holmes and Watson’ run through September 29, at Austin Playhouse’s Highland Campus location.

Cover: Toby Minor, Huck Huckaby and David Stahl in ‘Homes and Watson.’ Photo courtesy Austin Playhouse

Sarah Ribeiro has worked as a journalist, reporter, television news producer, public relations director, founded two successful businesses, and is the current Director of Development for Special Olympics Texas. She grew up in Hawaii, has sailed to Japan, run marathons, showed Arabian Horses, and has lived in six cities European cities with her Brazilian husband while he played professional basketball.