The holidays are a time when many of us entertain out-of-town guests. It serves as a wonderful opportunity to show off our area to them. Family and friends whose ideas of Baltimore come from “The Wire” are pleasantly surprised by the quality of our arts scene, and smarter theater companies take this into account when planning their seasons. At Everyman this month, a Ken Ludwig stage adaptation of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is guaranteed to secure bragging rights over visitors from the hinterlands.
This “Baskerville” is Baltimore’s best recent example of expert comic timing across an entire cast.
Directed by Laura Kepley, Ludwig’s “Baskerville” is an uproarious take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters and plot. The script carries a truckload of campy melodrama, and Kepley finds every ounce of fun that she can. There are gags aplenty, from pratfalls worthy of a “Three Stooges” serial, to an assortment of silly walks that would shame John Cleese himself. The greatest running joke of the production, though, are its costume changes. Fully 69 in number, they enable three actors to portray dozens of characters in rapid succession. Megan Anderson, Drew Kopas, and Bruce Randolph Nelson deserve the loftiest of accolades, not only for their comedic chops, but for their sheer athletic endurance. Two other actors, Danny Gavigan (as Holmes) and Tony Nam (as Watson), keep up as best they can with both the hijinks and the mystery. Yes, there’s definitely a whodunit story at the base of all this craziness, but its importance feels secondary.
This “Baskerville” is Baltimore’s best recent example of expert comic timing across an entire cast. Or rather, across an ensemble—including a backstage army of artists responsible for the execution of prop gags, special effects, and the aforementioned quick-changes. These hilarious elements in telling the story of this play not only propel its action at light speed, they actually manage to build in intensity—constantly one-upping themselves, reaching literally operatic heights. For the audience, some of the most joyful moments occur when we’re let in on the joke. Nelson, appearing to have no other choice, resorts to a couple of his quick-changes on stage in full view. Instead of spoiling theatrical magic, these bits are powerfully funny. There are countless smaller bits like that, like a desk sign that’s rotated, or an oil portrait that’s also a window-shade. This whole conceit of transparency is infinitely fun, and sets up for genuine shock and surprise near the end of the play when the production pulls out some unexpected design wizardry.
Running time: Two hours and 12 minutes with one intermission.
Advisory: Prop handgun, gunshot sound effects, simulated smoking, haze.
“Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” has been EXTENDED through January 8, 2023 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. Box Office: Mondays – Fridays: 10 am – 4 pm, Saturdays: 12 – 4 pm; Phone: 410.752.2208; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are also available online. Masks are encouraged but not required. Proof of vaccination is not required.