The Waco Civic Theatre is more Doyle than Dickens this month, but the tone is still light and entertaining as the theater turns to comedy with Ken Ludwig’s “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery.”
Ludwig, best known for his loving spoofs of opera (“Lend Me A Tenor”) and theater (“Moon Over Buffalo”) turns to Arthur Conan Doyle’s familiar Sherlock Holmes stories in “Baskerville,” which uses Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” as a starting point for comic farce and silliness.
That’s what the WCT had in mind when planning its 2017-18 season and looking for something light and with cross-generational appeal, said director Eric Shephard. “We were considering this (play) and ‘Something’s Afoot.’ This one was more fun,” he said.
In “Baskerville,” sleuth Holmes (Jeremy Stallings) and his companion Dr. Watson (Ethan Trueman) try to figure out what’s behind a dog that’s marauding the moors and apparently targeting members of the Baskerville family, all before the current Baskerville heir becomes its latest victim.
“Holmes and Watson are pretty much the Holmes and Watson of the book, but the supporting characters are outlandish. (Holmes and Watson) play it straight, but the others are stereotypical. There’s a Texan, a bitchy butler, a doctor, a Swede, a German and more,” Shephard said.
Audiences not only can pay attention to clues dropped to solve the mystery, but try and figure out which actors are playing which supporting characters: an eight-person WCT ensemble (Joey Tamayo, Bryan Harman, Melanie Wheat, Bill Selby, Piers Bateman, Kayla Arnold, Malachi Key and Margaret Rast) tackles nearly 40 characters in the course of the comedy, each with different mannerisms and bad accents.
“We’ve had fun with accents and dialects,” the director admitted.
“Baskerville” also is the first WCT production featuring joint casting for productions in Waco and Killeen’s Vive Les Arts Theatre. Budget problems caused the Killeen community theater to close this summer, but it reopened this year under a plan that sees the Waco theater sharing its main stage productions. “Baskerville” is the first production intentionally cast with actors from both communities; after debuting in Waco, the comedy will have a second run in Killeen in January.
“Baskerville” opens its two-weekend Waco run on Friday night with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Dec. 7, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays.