Theater Review: Sherlock's Last Case—a melodramatic mystery/comedy

Tony Vezner has chosen a work by Charles Marowitz that looks at the great detective’s final case and uses melodrama to give the audience an evening of comedy. Set in Holmes’ Baker Street flat and later in a musty cellar in Dorset, we see the interaction between a domineering Holmes and his long-time associate, Dr. Watson. Erik Uppling is Watson, and as the play progresses, his long-held resentment erupts, and the consequences become the center of action. David Kortemeier is Sherlock, and both actors, members of Equity, give completely professional performances. Every detail, including their British accents, is authentic.

Doug Lamoreux is the bumbling police officer, and Ruth Neaveill, the Scottish housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson, fusses and lends an air of drollery to the evening. Marissa Noel Swanson, a long-time favorite at NAT, is Liza Moriarity. Supposedly the daughter of Holmes’ nemesis, Dr. Moriarity, she plays her role much like that of an ingenue in a silent movie. We can see her as Little Nell tied to the railroad tracks, rolling her eyes in abject fear. Vezner coaches her well, and her body language is hilarious.

The set, designed by Martin McClendon, is a miracle of clever creativity. The formal Victorian parlor transforms to the old mill in Dorset in a matter of minutes. Black curtains conceal the room, and the precise lighting focuses on the dentist’s chair, an essential part of the plot. W. Alan Williams’ costumes are exquisite. Holmes’ elegant brocade robe, Watson’s morning coat, Mrs. Hudson’s outrageous ball gown, and the clever breakaway suit worn by Liza Moriarity when she pretends to be her evil twin brother, represent Williams’ work at its very best. The musical background consists of strings, cello and violin, and enhance the feel of Victorian England.

Vezner’s casting makes the entire production run smoothly. The melodramatic comedy based on the familiar mysteries of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is unexpected, and the audience seemed appreciative of the humor. Vezner’s time at NAT has been one of change. He continues to choose many local actors, and the support of the community has aided in the theater’s ability to stage works familiar to us and some a bit more on the cutting edge.

Sherlock’s Last Case runs through Nov. 12, and opening on Nov. 28 is the holiday production, Oliver!. The story of a troop of pickpockets and their conniving leader is a pleasant change from the eternal Christmas Carol. Local theaters are staging a variety of holiday productions that will make for some enjoyable evenings. Season subscriptions are available and make wonderful gifts. For more information, call (815) 964-6282.

Carl Cole, Bill Doll and Julian Swain have a busy week

Performing for Helen Shiller, the Chicago Alderman, Julian Swain and his musical friends entertained an audience of seniors who came to Clarendon Park for a Health Fair and luncheon. This is the third year for their appearance, and the music of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s brought back the memories of an earlier time. Joining Swain, Carl Cole, keyboards, Bill Doll, clarinet and tenor sax, Andrew Cole, drums and Diana Cole, vocals gave a program that ranged from “Autumn Leaves” to Swain’s smashing close, “Sinner Man.”

Saturday, Oct. 21, Cole’s Jazz Express joined the Rockford Barbershop Chorus in the Belvidere High School Auditorium, playing to a packed house despite the inclement weather. The program, based on the music of the ’50s, was hosted by Riley O’Neil of NewsTalk 1440 WROK. The chorus numbers were interspersed with special guests, Spirit’s Harmony, a Gospel quartet from Oregon, Ill., and Storm Front, an award-winning group from Denver, Colo. Storm Front’s comedy and clever arrangements closed an evening of terrific music and entertainment.

From the Oct. 25-31, 2006, issue

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