“Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ October 17, 2011


Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

I wish I could be excited about Arizona Theatre Company’s world premiere “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club” but sleek and professional as the production at the Herberger Theater Center is, it lacks the necessary intrigue to be a successful spine-tingling mystery.

The fault is Jeffrey Hatcher’s contrived script which puts the detective and the usual characters into a dull-witted Robert Louis Stevenson short story to create a meandering, often trite, and ultimately boring play.  Many on opening night described it as “interesting” but I never heard “engrossing” or “clever,” mandatory ingredients of a successful thriller.  The play lasts an eternity as it drags along with uninteresting twists and turns and it’s never engaging.  It has some rich comic dialogue but a few laughs do not make good theater.

The story opens with a bored Holmes who has lost interest in crime solving.  He decides death is the answer so he joins the Suicide Club.  Through a silly and overplayed game, members draw balls with one winning the chance to be murdered by another member.  Other events unfold lethargically until the end finally comes.

Hatcher hasn’t made the familiar characters unique or interesting while the listless plot doesn’t get anyone near the edge of their seat.  This “Sherlock Holmes” makes a good case to local theaters to lay off overexposed murder mysteries in programming.

The ATC production is far from the company’s best.  Remi Sandri’s Holmes is the epitome of logical intelligence and smooth civility but Sandri never makes Holmes exciting or dashing.  Jeff Steitzer’s Dr. Watson plays a small part in this tale and the actor’s bland and colorless comic interpretation makes him even more of a secondary player.  Celeste Ciulla has a big role as the club’s Secretary and she brings it off with flair.  Others essay their superficial characters with a degree of style and a bit of panache.  David Ira Goldstein’s staging is slick and smooth but can’t seem to get Hatcher’s plodding script to move.  The stark and colorless unit set does nothing to suggest what should have been the lush and colorful 1914 London setting and watching the set pieces come in and out a myriad of times to suggest various locales is more distracting than interesting.  Costuming suggests the period’s style better than the set.

We’ve come to rely on ATC to always deliver top flight productions but, like any theater, they are entitled to fail from time to time.  “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club” continues through October 30.  For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: D