Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club Playwright Jeffrey Archer has borrowed Sherlock Holmes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and a plot from a thriller by Robert Louis Stevenson, to create this theater mystery, set in London in 1914. Holmes learns of a "suicide club," where members draw billiard balls; the white one's a pass, the black one selects the victim and the red one determines who is to be executioner, for the would-be suicide does not die by his own hand. This intriguing premise is given a polished production by the Alley, and the narrative begins strongly, with Todd Waite as Holmes in a striking performance. Josie de Guzman plays the Club Secretary and contributes a compelling performance and some surprises in Act Two. Sidney Williams plays Dr. John Watson with the requisite hero worship and naiveté. Jay Sullivan portrays convincingly Nikita Starlov, a Russian prince, while his fiancée, Christiane (Elizabeth Bunch), wears stunning costumes by Alejo Vietti. James Black plays Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's brother, and finds both humor and power. Alley stalwarts Jeffrey Bean and James Belcher are excellent in double roles. The effort is directed by Mark Shanahan and Geoffrey Boyd, who have found a delightful mixture of dry wit and understated gravitas, though charm dissipates with too many meetings under bridges, too many corpses and too much international plotting. There are scenes in a chemist shop and in a cemetery, magic acts take center stage, all to obscure the fact that Holmes has neither an antagonist worthy of his stature nor a real paradox to resolve. But Archer means to entertain us rather than to mystify us, and thanks to this deft, fast-paced, amusing production, he has succeeded. Through June 23 on the Hubbard Stage of Alley Theatre, 615 Texas, 713-220-5700. — JJT

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