Theater Review: BASKERVILLE (Lambs Players in Coronado)

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by Milo Shapiro on October 20, 2022

in Theater-Regional,Theater-San Diego


Arguably Arthur Conan Doyle’s most successful Sherlock Holmes mystery The Hounds of the Baskervilles was actually first run as a serial from 1901-1902. It drew excited readers to pick up the next issue of London’s Strand Magazine to find out what would happen next in the dramatic story. As a serious mystery drama, this was highly successful. Playwright Ken Ludwig’s attempt to turn the long story into a 90-minute, one-act farce (with just three actors playing all 37 characters other than Holmes and Watson) raises mixed feelings.

Omri Schein, Brian Mackey, John Wells lll

The antics are wild with delightful, quick-switch costumes by Jemima Dutra and Connie Brugman. Everything is lampoonable, silliness rules, and cross-dressing is constant (especially when the bold and fabulous Angela Chatelain Avila, as the only woman, can only be in so many places at once!).

Brian Mackey, Michael Louis Cusimano

On the positive – and it is a huge positive – one could ask no more of the cast than what they put out that night. Omri Schein is at his best when he can be over the top, and Baskerville gives him endless opportunities to do so. Michael Cusimano is a chameleon, popping up constantly as another fun caricature. And then there’s Brian Mackey (so outstanding at physical comedy in Lamb’s pre-COVID Noises Off) giving us a more light-hearted Holmes that we usually see, but still giving him an edge. John Wells III rounds out the cast as Watson, the straight-man to all the wackiness around him.

Angie Chatelain Avila, John Wells lll

There isn’t a thing that the magic team of Robert and Deborah Gilmour Smyth missed in adding to the fun on Lamb’s stage. So why isn’t this a rave review? Because the factors that make the book work as a drama don’t really carry over into the jam-packed tomfoolery. The story nearly stops being interesting when run at 80 mph. This is not a knock at the format; one could make comparisons here to Young Frankenstein for its frequent goofiness. The difference is that the pacing gives us time to care about Dr. Frankenstein, Inga, and the others; Baskerville’s Holmes is, as written, distant, with Watson merely affable. The rest of the characters are a glorious whirlwind of well-executed bits, but the story itself fails to fascinate.

Omri Schein, Brian Mackey, Angie Chatelain Avila, John Wells lll

For some, this could undermine their enjoyment of the frivolity; for others, it might be a trifle as they watch these five talented comedians throw everything into these performances.

Angie Chatelain, Michael Louis Cusimano

photos by Ken Jacques

Lamb’s Players Theatre
1142 Orange Ave in Coronado (San Diego)
Wed at 2 & 7; Thu & Fri at 7; Sat at 2 & 7; Sun at 2
ends on Nov 20, 2022, but returns Jan 3-8, 2023
for tickets, call (619) 437-6000 or visit Lamb’s Players

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