The new Sherlock Holmes adaptation of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” at B Street Theatre comes on like a shaggy dog – a very friendly, tail-wagging dog who just wants to be your friend, lick your face, and play with you.
The show is liberally adapted from the original 1902 story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Steven Canny and John Nicholson of the British theater company Peepolykus have crafted a lean laugh machine of self-aware, mostly physical comedy. If that doesn’t sound like the classic, somber Sherlock Holmes you remember, you would be right because this Holmes is definitely not that one.
In the vein of wildly successful B Street productions such as “The 39 Steps,” “The Big Bang” and “Around the World in 80 Days,” “Hound” is a small cast, multi-character, big-laughs affair. Three familiar veteran B Street actors – Greg Alexander, Jason Kuykendall and John Lamb – play more than a dozen characters, shifting the characters off stage and on as a staple of the production’s humor.
They also shift in and out of “performing” as well, occasionally stopping the show to address the audience and each other as Greg, Jason, and John.
The set is minimal with two small benches as the main objects. The actors and stage crew continually move small pieces of furniture on and off stage. Images of various locales are projected onto a large screen at the rear of the stage. The production is dutifully anarchic and was both intentionally and unintentionally rough in parts as the opening-night audience guffawed excessively throughout.
The adaptation more or less follows the plot of the original, opening with Sir Charles Baskerville found dead of an apparent heart attack on the grounds of his country estate, Baskerville Hall. Tracks of a giant hound were found near the body. Dr. James Mortimer, a family friend, travels to London to ask Sherlock Holmes for help as Sir Charles’ nephew and only known heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, is coming from Canada to claim his inheritance.
An intrigued Holmes sends his associate, Dr. Watson, to investigate as he secretly travels there himself. At Baskerville Hall the mystery deepens with the introduction of the odd Jack Stapleton and his sister, who are Baskerville neighbors.
This is all played for big laughs with verbal fun throughout the script. (“He had a heart attack to his heart!”) and ample physical dexterity from the three skilled actors. A bit with a floating window sill was particularly well done.
Kuykendall, B Street’s go-to actor for portrayals of the fictional detective such as his more straight forward adaptation in its family series last year, is the always-circumspect Sherlock here. And one of his other “Hound” characters – a Latin woman – is an overwhelming audience favorite. Alexander plays Watson, and Lamb plays Sir Henry, among others.
Director Buck Busfield resists any inclinations to camp it up, knowing the clever script in the hands of these actors means everything is under control. Sherlock Holmes aficionados may or may not appreciate the send-up of their hero in this comedy version of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” at B Street, but audiences in general will likely find the joke hysterical.
Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120.