People's Light & Theatre's production is only mildly entertaining.
The People’s Light & Theatre Company continues its long season with a strong production of Jeremy Paul’s mildly entertaining but ultimately disappointing drama The Secret of Sherlock Holmes.
The play focuses on the relationship between Holmes (Peter DeLaurier) and his companion, Dr. Watson (Mark Lazar). But if you’re hoping the titular secret is, as contemporaries might have called it, the love that dare not speak its name between the two old friends, you’re out of luck.
Unlike the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, there is no crime to solve in Sherlock Holmes, and the attention usually paid to locked-room murders and ghostly hounds is turned on Watson and especially Holmes as the play unspools in both past and present.
The two timelines are handled in a potentially clunky way: When Holmes or Watson is explaining past events, the actors speak directly to the audience in short monologues; when the action is in the present tense, the actors address each other. Under Stephen Novelli’s capable direction, though, the structure never seems awkward or mechanical, and it helps that Lazar and DeLaurier are excellent in their respective roles.
The play, which doesn’t exactly have a plot in any conventional sense, is set primarily at Holmes’ London digs on Baker Street. We are witness to Holmes’ and Watson’s first meeting, their early days sharing quarters at Baker Street, Watson’s eventual marriage and its effect on Holmes (an acceleration of his ennui and drug habit).
Novelli’s designers aid the production considerably. Darkly lighted by Gregory Scott Miller (an appropriate effect for illustrating the dark recesses of Holmes mind), the physical production changes dramatically between two acts.
The performances of Lazar and DeLaurier make the production worth a visit. Lazar’s Watson is likeable and his formal posture immediately establishes the doctor’s military background. When Holmes returns after faking his own death, Lazar effectively communicates not just the doctor’s shock, but his anger at what Watson views as Holmes’ callous disregard for their long friendship.
DeLaurier’s understated acting is perfectly suited for the role of the emotionally rigid detective. His Holmes is meticulous (he prepares his syringe with the skill of a well-trained doctor or lifelong addict) and insightful, but he is also a flawed, painfully lonely man who yearns for companionship and an escape from his own restless mind. DeLaurier’s portrait of the detective is that of a depressed genius who find solace only in his pursuit of Moriarty and the friendship of the devoted Watson.
Diehard fans of the detective will most likely be fascinated by the meticulous examination of Holmes’ psyche, but, still, for the rest of us, Paul’s play is little more than a mildly interesting excursion into the mind of one of the world’s great literary figures.
The Secret of Sherlock Holmes
Through Aug. 15.
People’s Light & Theatre Company
39 Conestoga Rd.