Lightning just might strike twice. When J.J. Johnston first donned the velvet smoking jacket of the eccentric but highly astute Sherlock Holmes, accompanied by the mustachioed Andrew J. Love as the faithful foil Dr. John Watson, the resulting The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes went on to become the company's best-selling production to date.
In The Return of Sherlock Holmes, a new adaptation making its world premiere at Classical Theatre Company, Timothy N. Evers borrows from two of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories: The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter and The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.
Melissa Flower, who directs this production, says they're having a little fun with the fact that Johnston and Love are reprising their roles from 2015's The Speckled Band. "We sort of play and riff off their first time doing the role but this time the whole construct and concept of the show is completely different. We’re like doing little somethings: we’ll reference an image in the first Sherlock and then sort of riffing from that," says Flower, adding that it's a little bit more Brechtian and a lot more presentational.
"It’s kind of like a deconstructed Sherlock," says Flower. They break some rules, mix in a few anachronisms and add modern aesthetics to the script. "[We use] different techniques that maybe started with Brecht and then evolved over time to become part of our theater vocabulary. Now we don’t even know they started with [the German playwright]."
She labels the production "an adventure story" or a "comedic adventure" and says they're analyzing Holmes on many levels: living the adventure story, living as an actor onstage, and what that means to contemporary theater-goers. "And also tapping into the cast of six men and one woman. What does that mean today?"
We'll also see some familiar tropes: Holmes, Watson and elder brother Mycroft Holmes (played by Jeff McMorrough) brilliantly solving a riddle based on the most threadbare of clues. But this time around Watson's character is more than just the narrator; he's lifted up and given status befitting a noted physician and war hero.
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Flower doesn't want to spoil all of the surprises, but it does looks like Holmes doesn't always get his man. She says "something else happens" and we'll see parallels with the narratives found in both acts.
Rounding out the cast and wearing multiple hats are Callina Anderson (Kratides/Sophy/Lady Eva), John Dunn (Melas/Milverson), Calvin Hudson (Lestrade/Latimer) and Jarred Tettey (Kemp/Ms. Montague/Loaming). In addition to playing Mycroft, McMorrough also portrays Moran and a footman.
So will the audience pick up on the clues and solve the riddles, or will everybody remain befuddled at Holmes's genius? It's all elementary, my dear.
Performances of The Return of Sherlock Holmes are scheduled for October 5-21, 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and October 10 and 15, 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Chelsea Market Theatre, 4617 Montrose, Suite 100, 713-963-9665, classicaltheatre.org, $10 to $25.