Daring Metropolis ‘Baskerville’ is a Comedic Triumph

The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal on the entertainment industry. Particularly hard hit has been the theater community. From community theaters to Broadway, there have been little in terms of options. There has been some interest in Zoom readings of scripts, but that doesn’t fully captivate the way a fully staged production does.

One daring company, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, is breaking new ground with a streaming-on-demand production of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. Created in partnership with Imagineering Studios Inc. and Method 2 Madness Films, the Metropolis production blurs the line between film and theater.

Directed by Xavier M. Custodio, Baskerville is more than the filming of a stage production. Rather it takes advantage of camera angles, special effects, and editing cuts to bring this brilliant comedy to life in a way far more vibrant and colorful than would be possible as a live play before an audience.

This marriage of elements from the diverse worlds of stage and film works on many levels. The only thing that is really missing is the laughter of a live audience.

The story is a familiar one to Sherlock Holmes fans. In this comedic adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the world’s greatest detective and his faithful friend must brave the desolate moors before a family curse takes its newest heir. Being a Ken Ludwig piece, it has a liberal amount of comedy woven into the fabric of the story.

For his interpretation of Baskerville, Custodio has done some creative casting. Dr. Watson, the show’s narrator and one of its two chief characters, is traditionally played by a man. Custodio has instead cast Meg Elliott in the role. This gender bending casting is actually very well done. Elliott is the show’s strongest performer.

The only complaint regarding having a woman play Watson is that in some instances the script has been changed to refer to Watson as a woman and in other instances the script was not changed, and Watson is referred to as a gentleman. Those little inconsistencies can make a difference.

As Sherlock Holmes we have Breon Arzell, who provides a commanding performance in the central role. He is passionate and earnest, yet also a bit egotistical as one would expect of the world’s most brilliant detective.

Arzell and Elliott are joined in the cast by Gabriel Fries, Rachel Livingston, and Jason Richards who play the remaining 35 characters in the play. The trio are incredible. And in true comedy fashion, those 35 odd ball characters are differentiated from one another by an increasingly absurd display of terrible costumes, wigs, and beards. Fries’ endless supply of toothpicks is one of the silliest and thus most fun elements of the show. Kudos to whoever came up with that bit!

The characters are the keys to this Sherlock Holmes story. For the most part, the players are unencumbered by big sets. Rather, the story is told against a bare stage with some minor furniture or set pieces added for suggestive influence.

Superb acting and directing mixed with creative film techniques makes Metropolis’ Baskerville a not-to-be-missed piece of entertainment.

One of the wonderful things about this streaming-on-demand production of Baskerville is that now viewers from anywhere in the world can get a taste of the fine work that Metropolis Performing Arts Centre is known for.

On-Demand Streaming of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery is available at your leisure February 1-14, 2021. The production is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French Inc. Single Viewer tickets are $20, while friends and family can join you for a Household Viewing ticket for $50. For tickets go to www.MetropolisArts.com or call the box office at (847) 577-2121.

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