Encore Michigan

Review: Sherlock Holmes’ third act at PRT is a taut and wile yarn

Review April 23, 2022 David Kiley

CHELSEA, MI–Will the real Sherlock Holmes please stand up. If he can, after shooting himself up with drugs.

The Purple Rose Theatre opened its third Sherlock Holmes play since 2018, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of The Ghost Machine, the last of a trilogy commissioned by the theatre from Michigan playwright David MacGregor.

The play centers on the arrival of electricity pioneers Nicolas Tesla (Rusty Mewha) and Thomas Edison (David Bendena) in London, each with a new breakthrough invention they plan to present to investors. Meanwhile, Marie Chartier (Caitlin Cavannaugh), who is the daughter of the late and notorious Holmes nemesis, Moriarty, says she is working for the British government, investigating the efficacy of the inventions. Is she?

MacGregor’s script is taut and definitely worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Some of the actors have played the same roles in all three Holmes plays–Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Elusive Ear, and Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of The Fallen Souffle. And while this play references the earlier stories a couple of times, this installment of the trilogy stands on its own. Audiences need not have seen the earlier two plays in order to follow and appreciate the story.

Mark Colson is back as Holmes. Paul Stroili reprises his role as Watson. Sarab Kamoo has been Holmes love interest Irene Adler in all three plays. And Ms. Cavannaugh is back in her role.

MacGregor is a clever playwright, using historic figures in all three of the plays to create at atmosphere of familiarity in the play for the audience. In the earlier plays, he involved Vincent Van Gogh, King Edward VII, Auguste Escoffier, Prince Albert, and so on. His attention to research, characterization and the cadences he creates for Holmes are spot on for Sherlock fans. The rivalry, for example, between Edison and Tesla is well known to historians and MacGregor cleverly mines that to tell this story.

The set, used now in all three plays, created by Bartley H. Bauer is gorgeous, featuring an atrium, period furniture, meticulous lines in the construction. Working with properties designer Dana Segrest on the turn of the century (19th to 20th as the setting is 1905)the paintings, books and placement of pieces on the set is dead on for the time for a London flat suitable for celebrity sleuth Sherlock Holmes. Costume designs by Suzanne Young are smart and stylish, and makes you want to order some of her period correct waistcoats tailored for Holmes and Watson. Sound design by Brad Phillips includes his own composed under scoring, which also feels just right for 1905 London. Lighting is by Noele Stollmack

Directed by Angie Kane, this parlor piece is a more than worthy addition to the Holmes canon, and together the trilogy of plays work beautifully to complement one another. You can expect that with the popularity of Holmes in the last several years, with a TV serial and movie featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr. respectively, MacGregor’s plays will soon get done around the country. If we’re lucky.