Sumter Little Theatre presents Sherlock Holmes' 'Baskerville'

BY IVY MOORE
Special to The Sumter Item
Posted 2/12/19

Sumter Little Theatre presents a comic take on history's most celebrated fictional detective when "Ken Ludwig's Baskerville, A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" opens Thursday evening. Directed by Michael Duffy, "Baskerville's" cast of characters numbers …

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Sumter Little Theatre presents Sherlock Holmes' 'Baskerville'

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Sumter Little Theatre presents a comic take on history's most celebrated fictional detective when "Ken Ludwig's Baskerville, A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" opens Thursday evening. Directed by Michael Duffy, "Baskerville's" cast of characters numbers more than 40 - all played by five actors.

Only Luther Barnett as Sherlock Holmes and Morgan Woods as Dr. Watson remain in those roles throughout the play.

Duffy said Holmes and Watson are called in to solve the mystery, thought by many to be a curse, of the deaths of the male heirs, supposedly being killed by "a demon hound. The current heir, Sir Charles Baskerville, has arrived to claim his legacy." Fearing for his life, the Texan asks Holmes for help.

As Holmes and Watson begin their investigation, they encounter a variety of eccentric characters played by Lexi Melton, Kendall Jones and Matt Wilt. Each plays about 12 different roles, Duffy said. Even Sir John Falstaff makes a brief appearance.

Duffy said SLT has staged "Baskerville" to have "the quality of a 1940s melodrama. It's like film noir - if done by the Marx Brothers. It's a farce."

SLT has produced several Ludwig plays, including "Lend Me a Tenor," "Moon Over Buffalo" and "Leading Ladies." Duffy noted that Ludwig "is one of the top 20 playwrights. Last year, Baskerville was one of the most produced plays."

Duffy said he likes Ludwig's philosophy regarding productions of his plays: "He said, 'I write my shows, and I give them away.' He doesn't expect directors to follow any specific conventions, so you might see productions very different from each other. We're doing some things that are a bit different. I think we've got a pretty good take on that."

Taking a cue from Ludwig, Duffy said he "encourage(s) input from each person involved. Working with a small cast and crew, it becomes more of a group project. Everybody gets the opportunity to add something to the finished project."

Barnett's last production was about eight years ago, when he played Friar Lawrence in SLT's "Romeo and Juliet." A longtime Sherlock Holmes fan, Barnett said he's "read all of Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes stories and seen many of the films" based on them. "To be cast as Holmes is an honor, and working with Morgan (Wood) as Watson is fun. He's the vehicle for the narration."

The play, Barnett said, "is very action oriented and fast paced. It moves very quickly, rapid fire."

Kendall Jones, last seen at SLT in "Barefoot in the Park," plays 14 distinct characters. "Some have just one line or two, and some are more substantial. It's pretty challenging," she said. "There's a lot of physicality, and I have a lot of different accents and cadences - Cockney, Irish, Swedish, German, standard English and others."

She said the plot of "Baskerville" is "pretty true to the story, but we take some creative liberties. It's almost like a play about the theater."

Stage director of "Baskerville" is Ann Beaty. Technical director Michael Leone has built the set, designed the lighting and sound and will run the lights during the show. Michael Bacon is sound technician, and Sylvia Pickell has designed the costumes for the large cast of characters - 38 plus, she said, adding that she's seen many of the rehearsals, "and we've got all the best actors. They're improv actors. The show is very funny."

The show is geared toward adults, only in that "You have to pay attention. Very young children could easily become confused at the quick changes and asides," Duffy said. "There are complexities to the plot, some very sophisticated humor." There's also some slapstick.

Sumter Little Theatre presents the comedy "Ken Ludwig's Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" Thursday through Saturday and Feb. 21-24. Sunday shows start at 3 p.m., and Thursday-through-Saturday performances at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students, seniors and military. Call SLT at (803) 775-2150, go by the theater at 14 Mood Ave., or visit the website, http://sumterlittletheatre.com/tickets.html for reservations.