BY SANDY STAGGS
The world’s foremost detective is back on the case in Greenville Little Theatre’s yuletide offering, “Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose.” And it’s a doozy of a mystery, my dear. Or is it a comedy?
Well, it’s both actually.
And with “Christmas Goose,” GLT completes the entire canon of plays by Virginia Cate and Duke Ernsberger, the mother-and-son team behind audience favorites “Don’t Cry for Me, Margaret Mitchell,” “Dracula Bites,” “Elvis Has Left the Building,” and “A Visit from Scarface,” all first premiering at The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, which maintains close artistic ties to GLT.
And in their grand tradition of grounding fact (or source material in this instance) with imagination, this dramedy case combines Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” with the playwrights’ sardonic wit and artistic liberties.
Associate Artistic Director Sam McCalla tackles the role of Holmes, who is restless during the holiday because Londoners seem to behaving themselves. There are no crimes to solve and not even his arch enemy Professor Moriarty is up to his usual devious antics.
That is, until Baker Street’s beat Officer Peterson (a joyous turn by Craig Smith) enters a Christmas goose to the proceedings and informs Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson (the chameleon actor Evan Harris) there is a goose slasher running rampant in London.
And when the Countess (a riotous Ashleigh Stowe in a stunning emerald-green hoop dress by costumer Thomas Brooks) hires Holmes and Watson to find her stolen blue diamond, the scene is set for a wild goose chase of a mystery and one wallop of an adventure for a packed house on Heritage Green.
McCalla and Harris, in their umpteenth pairing, give finely-tuned performances. McCalla as Holmes is masterful as he time and time again demonstrates the sleuth’s powers of deduction from the most minute of clues such as a single fiber or concocting an entire criminal profile from a hat. And he does it without the annoying arrogance like some actors over the years have portrayed the famed detective (i.e. Benedict Cumberbatch).
And Harris in a perfect British accent lends gravitas and a bounty of humor to this part, handily dominating the scenery in the second act.
To be honest, the “mystery” is “elementary” and not so mysterious, and can be readily solved before the intermission. And while the comedy in act one is not heavy-handed and relies mostly on the text, it’s the second act that finally veers into the playwrights’ familiar farcical territory such as in a series of hysterical “rides” on London’s public transportation.
The play also features brief but poignant turns by resident company actors Carter Allen (on double duty), Latreshia Lilly (who opens the show with a pristine Cockney accent), Magdalenda Laws as the Countess’s maid and Jamie Ann Walters as Holmes’ landlord, in addition to Makenzie Smith, Ashleigh Stowe, Stephen Trammell and Stephanie Underwood.
Suzanne McCalla directs and her scenic design is, as always, sumptuous, creating a pure Dickensian ambiance for the play and enhanced by ample amounts of London fog, lighting by Cory Granner and Brooks’ spot-on period costumes.
“Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Goose” continues December 13-16 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 17 at 3 p.m. at the Greenville Little Theatre, 444 College Street in Greenville. For tickets, call (864) 233-6238 or visit www.greenvillelittletheatre.org.