The game is afoot! But with a different lens, as the women of Sherlock Holmes’ life take center stage in “Sherlock’s Veiled Secret,” presented by Rockville Little Theatre.
Perhaps one of the most famous characters in the entirety of English Literature, Sherlock Holmes is first and foremost a detective. Holmes’ most distinguishing characteristic is his power of deduction; he is able to crack seemingly impossible problems with his encyclopedic knowledge. One of his most famous sayings is “when you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth.”
However, he struggles with interpersonal relationships, as his intelligence often puts him on a plane most people cannot connect with. This struggle is at the center of “Sherlock’s Veiled Secret,” which makes an interesting departure from the majority of Holmes stories that are more focused on his work. It is also an interesting departure that Holmes could not be called the protagonist of this piece, which instead goes to a young woman with a mysterious past- Violet Sheridan.
…an enjoyable production with lots of twists and turns; exactly what you want from a Holmes story.
The play opens on Holmes (Noah Steurer) having a nightmare at his home in Sussex. After being startled awake by Miss Sheridan (Miranda Klugesherz), he proceeds to demonstrate some of the deductive powers that have made him famous. However impressed she is, Violet has more pressing questions; chiefly, why has the most famous detective in England called her for a visit? Holmes lays out that he needs her help with his latest case; blackmail. He says that her position as a popular, young sculptor will allow her to gain access to the principles of the case, as well as being his conduit, as he has worn out his welcome with Scotland Yard over the years. She tentatively agrees though she feels there is something he is leaving out.
As the next few days unfold, she meets several women who have been important to Holmes in different ways over the years. The first is Mrs. Cyril Morton (Ruth Geller Vernet), who shared a close friendship with Holmes before her marriage and is quite guarded as to the nature of that relationship. She also meets the infamous opera singer Irene Adler (Natalie McManus), who featured prominently in the Holmes adventure “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and was possibly linked to Holmes romantically. Finally, she meets the Lady Charlotte Carrington (Elizabeth Keith) when the case takes a turn for the worse.
Violet, an orphan, seeks to gain answers for the case, but also into her own shrouded past before she can move to a future with her fiancé, Charles Wellington Yorke (Kevin Raleigh.) This leads her to chase down every possible clue, including a séance with the mysterious Turlough O’Brennan (Michael Scherer.) When Violet unearths a massive secret from Holmes past, she realizes that the case of blackmail that she is working on might have more in common with the case of her murky past than she ever thought possible, and the results could be life or death.
This show was an interesting spin on a well-tread canon and provided a breath of fresh air to the Holmes stories. It was an excellent way for Rockville Little Theatre to end their 71st season on a high note. The cast was excellent and was able to navigate a word-heavy play with accomplishment.
Klugesherz very ably carried this production on her capable shoulders- she made Violet relatable and likable throughout but provided a definitive arc of growth for this tenacious young woman through the events of the play. Her English accent was well done, and she successfully portrays both comic and dramatic moments required for this role.
Steurer also turned in a sharp rendition of Holmes. Usually, all that is required for this role is the ability to talk through the complicated deductions, but this piece required Holmes to demonstrate some emotional depth that is not often required elsewhere. Steurer did a fantastic job of showing the true cost of a life dedicated to detective work and pushing every opportunity for familial happiness away.
Raleigh provided the show with some comic relief as the bumbling fop of a fiancé but was also able to inject some redeemable qualities towards the end of the piece. Geller-Vernet, McManus, and Keith were all wonderfully able to strike unique characters as the three women in Holmes’ life and brought shades of intrigue as the audience grappled to guess who might be hiding secrets. Eugene Kosarovich rounded out the cast as the Workman, and Scherer delivered a multifaceted performance.
This show also benefited from excellence on the technical side. The set was very well crafted and was smartly split into several vignettes to allow one open stage to represent many different locations with minimal scene changes (Set Design by Bill Brown). As in any period piece, the costumes are incredibly important for allowing the audience to understand the setting, and Elizabeth Dashbach excelled immensely. Her 20s era costumes were both historically accurate and beautiful. Kudos also to Hair Designer Malca Giblin for capturing the unique hairstyles of the time-period as well. There were a few moments where the lighting was a bit dark, but overall the show was both a technical and artistic success. Director Laura W. Andruski should be commended for an enjoyable production with lots of twists and turns; exactly what you want from a Holmes story.
While “Sherlock’s Veiled Secret” has now closed, Rockville Little Theatre has announced a very exciting 72nd season for 2019-2020. Included are classic favorites “Arsenic and Old Lace,” the powerful family drama “A Raisin in the Sun,” RLT’s first musical in a long time, “The Spitfire Grill,” and the historical comedy “She Stoops to Conquer.”
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, plus a 15-minute intermission.
For more information on Rockville Little Theatre’s upcoming season, please click here.