Arts » Theater + Dance

Review: EclecticPond's The Speckled Band

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None of the plot elements are different in EclecticPond Theatre Company's comedic reworking of a classic Sherlock Holmes murder mystery. Rather, the comedy comes in the way certain characters present themselves; for instance, the guy who takes himself quite seriously as a late 19th-century serving woman. From the small cast, to the two characters playing multiple roles, to the light-hearted atmosphere, the concept seems to have been wholly inspired by the Patrick Barlow version of The 39 Steps.

The pared-down production worked very nicely, sliding along a brisk pace, but performers had to do quite a bit of pantomime in the absence of set-pieces. And because cast members aren't quite consistent with their pantomime, some of them ended up walking through closed invisible doors. (Not that we would have noticed had not sound effects and gestures by other characters very clearly made the point that the invisible door was closed.) Also, while picking nits, with such close seating, the as yet uninvented ballpoint pens were rather anachronistic.

A far more evident downside to the performance was Watson’s lackluster performance. Playing second fiddle to Holmes (sorry) doesn’t mean he has to be dull. Worse still, he seemed to fluctuate between being an Englishman and an American.

Still, Holmes, played by Bradford Reilly, was a complete joy to watch. Thank you, Mr. Reilly, for not giving in to trends and making Holmes a joyless outsider. Yes, he portrays Holmes as an eccentric who obviously did not fit in quite normally with the rest of society. But he remains a man filled with life and genuine affection for his friends. Reilly’s Holmes seems to hearken back to the original Paget illustrations of a bohemian academic eager for an adventure.

Further, Reilly’s inspired reaction to a loose mustache appliance — I’ve been there, too, pal — was both clever and terribly amusing. It was also a refreshing pleasure to see the normally gentle and amiable Dan Flahive as the thoroughly evil Doctor Rylott.

Finally, I must highlight Matt Anderson’s performance, or performances, as a myriad of characters. The man can both blend and yet maintain a kind of winking absurdity in his varying incarnations. I will not divulge one particular part he played with great humor for those not familiar with the story. But suffice to say that in a matter of seconds and without a trace of dialogue, he managed to elicit a roar of laughter from the entire audience.

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