SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE CASE OF ALICE FAULKNER – Written by William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle; Directed by Maru Garcia. Produced by the Wheat Ridge Theatre Company (5455 West 38th Avenue, Wheat Ridge) through August 13. Tickets available at 720-244-5204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would call the Wheat Ridge Theatre Company a start-up theatre. They have been in business since 2017 and have done about ten shows in a variety of locations ranging from a Mexican restaurant to the back room of a brewery to parking lots and finally to their new space at 38th and Sheridan. The SHERLOCK HOLMES episode was about their fifth show in this location. They offer entertainment for theatregoers and a place where fledgling actors can work side by side with more experienced performers and directors. So “start-up” in two senses of the word.
Which often means that you don’t know what you’re going to get when you attend a performance there. They don’t quite have an established track record yet. I have seen about nine of their shows over the years in a variety of locations, including two of the drive-through shows they did during the pandemic which allowed participants to enjoy a little theatre while remaining in their cars. I am inclined to keep attending because when they are good, they are very very good. A comedy called THE IRISH CURSE done earlier this year was excellent and could hold its own against other bigger theatres in town.
Their production of SHERLOCK HOLMES hits somewhere in the middle. It’s a somewhat dated script (more on that later) which called for an acting style not altogether familiar to most modern actors. The script walks a fine line between a serious mystery and dramedy (both dramatic and comic). Jeamus Wilkes who plays Sherlock did, for the most part, a fine job of portraying a serious detective, secure in his own deductive abilities, confident in his experience in solving difficult crimes and creative as an actor to bring the character to life. Only once or twice did I detect a sly remark or humorous aside that probably wasn’t in the original script but made sense in a modern setting.
As Alice Faulkner, Jacci Kitts became a dignified member of the nobility in desperate need of Sherlock’s assistance and woman enough to catch his eye. Bryan Sanchez was a “hop to it” pageboy Billy with the right amount of deference and trust in his service as an assistant to Sherlock. Jim Hayes had the experience of allowing his Dr. Watson to be an authentic background player and fulfill his role with confidence. Jason Rexx, even while playing a smarmy safecracker, brought humor and a realistic attitude to his role.
Jaime Lewis was the player with the most current experience on the stage and it showed in his no-nonsense portrayal of Moriarty. His business-like handling of the task of being a bad guy in charge of a small army of gangsters taking care of all sorts of sordid business was crisp and clean. Done in a matter-of-fact military precision, he “handled” all the underground problems without lifting a finger. Until it came to Sherlock. That he had to take care of himself. Which led to the one awkward scene involving his status of being in a wheelchair. The only time it made any difference was in the final scene when he comes into the room in “disguise,” recognized only by Sherlock. While it was easy enough to change costumes to become a cab-man for the scene, there was no disguising his wheelchair. Believing firmly in the proviso that the best actor should get the part, I applaud WRTC for casting Jaime in the role. I think authors Gillette and Doyle would have forgiven them for rewriting that single scene to make it more authentic for the actor.
There is very little mystery to this script; you know immediately who the bad guy is. The mystery is why everyone wants this certain packet of letters. What’s in them that is most damning? The play was actually written in 1899 by playwright/actor/manager Gillette while he was touring with another play. Suggested to him by his long-time producer, he wrote to Arthur Conan Doyle for permission to adapt three of his stories into a theatre production. Permission was given and a long-term friendship and business relationship evolved out of this first effort. Gillette went on to play the role over 1300 times across the country and in England and France. He was one of the first actors to use a “naturalistic” style of acting which worked very well for his laconic characterization of Holmes.
You must give kudos to Wheat Ridge Theatre Company for their variety. They have their modern version of this turn-of-the-century script running now. They just finished performing a brand-new musical. Their next production is a tense ultra-modern dilemma situation involving corporate bigwigs trying to solve an elimination problem which turns macabre. They come back in October with the truly spooky WOMAN IN BLACK. Who knows what they will come up with next.
A WOW factor of 8!