If a beautiful woman in distress lands on his doorstep, what does a man do? If that man is Sherlock Holmes (Chance Dean), the woman’s problem is a blessed relief from the boredom of ordinary life. The woman has a markedly different effect on Holmes’ faithful friend Dr. Watson (Dave Polgar). And therein lies the story of “Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood”. This rich and engaging production of Paul Giovanni’s Tony award-winning play at the Hedgerow Theatre runs from October 4 – November 25
The woman in distress, Irene St.Clair (Maryruth Stine), is beautiful, alluring and terrified. After some alarming events at home, she has discovered that her father is missing. She engages Holmes to find her father and shed some light on the strange piece of paper Irene has found among her father’s things. Holmes investigation, with Irene’s help, leads to the home of Major Alistair Ross (Shaun Yates). Major Ross has a few secrets of his own, revealed to the audience before Holmes and his companions arrive. Irene’s missing father, Captain St.Claire (Zoran Kovcic), also turns up at the house.
Then, with the aid of a little darkness and the arrival of an intruder just outside the window, Major Ross is murdered in a room full of people. Only the sharply observant Holmes has an idea what actually happened and who may be responsible. We learn of the theft of the Agra treasure 30 years earlier in India and a man named Jonathan Small (Ronald Comer). And it is the effects of this crime on the lives of the perpetrators and the search for the missing treasure that drive the play. Details of the robbery, greed,betrayal and curse that haunts the thieves are revealed.
The fine points of the events of the past can be a little hard to follow but the psychological and emotional impact of a broken pact, betrayal, and a nasty curse are palpable and well done.
The costumes are a delight in this production: the men’s clothing is sharply tailored and Irene’s elegant, all are rich in detail. The settings are sparse but effective with a flash of color and drama at times.
Chance Dean does a brilliant job as Holmes bringing alive his razor-sharp insight into events puzzling to others, his charisma with a little charm added, and his disdain for lesser minds.
In the tough role of Dr. Watson, Dave Polgar is a sure, steady, powerful presence. Although bedazzled by the alluring Irene St.Clair, he keeps his head about solving the crime at hand.
Dean and Polgar have a natural chemistry as Holmes and Watson.
The murder of Major Ross brings Inspector Lestrade (Jeffrey Lanigan) into the story. Lanigan brings the perfect comic touch, timing and demeanor to Lestrade, who is disdained by Holmes as a mere ordinary police inspector.
Maryruth Stine as Irene St.Clair begins as a beleagured and even tragic Victorian heroine and skillfully and gracefully navigates her character’s journey to quite a different place.
The three thieves St.Clair (Kovcic), Ross (Yates), and Small (Comer) have a powerful, surreal scene together reflecting on their crime and its effects.
Mario Paulo Cannavarra (Birdy Johnson) and Eli Dietrich (Tonga) make strong contributions in their parts.
Jared Reed’s direction brings a mysterious and thrilling story to life and brings out the best in an excellent cast.
Amazing reversals and surprises await you in this play. For newcomers to the Sherlock Holmes stories, this play is an entertaining introduction. For Holmes enthusiasts, it is a delightful, sophisticated romp drawing on the Holmes canon that even manages to mention the famous, untold story of “The Giant Rat of Sumatra”.
© Mary Cochrane-McIvor
“Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood” by Paul Giovanni. Director: Jared Reed. Hedgerow Theatre. October 4 – November 25, 2012. For tickets and information go to www.HedgerowTheatre.org 610-565-4211.