Eric Graves, left, as Sherlock Holmes, and Ethan Leonard as Dr. Watson. The MDI High School drama production of “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” will take the Higgins-Demas Theater stage two more times, on May 12 and 14. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS DOUGHERTY

‘Baskerville’: Students strike comic gold



BAR HARBOR — The cast and crew of “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” at Mount Desert Island High School are so successful in creating a laugh-out-loud funny performance, it’s easy to miss the hard work that made it that way. Director Chris Dougherty marshaled a lot of energy and a lot of moving parts to make an effective whole.

For one thing, the cast of just seven juggles almost 40 different characters. They also navigate a host of dialects. At one point, two characters played by Sammie Park are both in a scene. She nimbly switches hats and speech patterns to distinguish between Texas rancher and Scotland Yard detective. Park’s Texas accent is impressive – it would be easy to fall back on a generic American Southern dialect, but she stays firmly on the high plains.

The story follows Holmes and Watson as they seek to untangle a mysterious death on the moors near the ancestral home of the Baskerville family. They also work to protect the next heir to the estate, the Texan played by Park, from meeting the same fate.

The play is a great vehicle for goofiness, especially for Desmond Reifsnyder. We meet him first as uptight country doctor Mortimer, who has misplaced his walking stick. Then he’s a hotel desk clerk with a curly moustache and Castilian lisp.

The belly laughs really start when he becomes Mrs. Barrymore, the Russian (or Eastern European?) maid with Princess Leia hair, a slight hunchback and an intentionally hard-to-understand accent.

Reifsnyder also plays Stapleton, neighbor to the Baskerville estate in Devonshire. Stapleton leaps about the stage with his butterfly net, gossips with Holmes and Watson and takes the measure of the Texan making eyes at his sister.

Anna Redgate, left, and Sammie Park in the Mount Desert Island High School drama production of “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery.” The play will take the Higgins-Demas Theater stage two more times, on May 12 and 14. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS DOUGHERTY

Eric Graves as Sherlock Holmes and Ethan Leonard as Doctor John Watson ably anchor the storytelling. Leonard’s Watson manages to be both pitiable sidekick and trustworthy narrator. On stage for almost the whole play, he is engaging both when he’s talking with other characters and when he breaks the fourth wall for comic hot-takes directly to the audience.

Graves as Holmes is a splendid straight man to Leonard’s Watson, especially when he appears seemingly out of nowhere and makes Watson jump. Holmes is cool as a cucumber and certainly the right person to have on the case.

Anna Redgate plays the Victorian-era female characters with poise (and beautiful wigs), especially Holmes’ cheeky employee Mrs. Hudson and Miss Stapleton, who falls in love with Sir Henry from Texas.

Rawl Blackett is most memorable for her street urchin Cartwright, with a solid Cockney twang and great timing in a duo with Reifsnyder’s Milker. Eli Price is suitably ominous as several of the shady characters who appear at a distance, especially Mrs. Barrymore’s wild-man brother Victor.

The show shares a technical crew with Eurydice. Live Foley sound effects from Jacob Sanner were spot on and especially appropriate for the genre. Stage Manager Ben Hagle and crew chief Max Cornman helped some tricky visual gags go off without a hitch.

“Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” will air on Friday, May 12, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 14, at 2 p.m.

Tickets, which cost $8 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens, will be available at the door.

 

 

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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