Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily
Reviewed by Lara J. Altunian
Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills at the Reuben Cordova Theatre
Through December 17
The great detective is at it again with a new adventure in Katie Forgette’s Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily. It’s a mystery/comedy that combines historical figures and fictional characters in an exciting narrative that ferries viewers through twists and turns up until the very end.
It’s 1894. London’s most treasured actress, Lillie Langtry (Melissa Collins), is being blackmailed with letters and pictures depicting her former, scandalous relationship with Edward, Prince of Wales. In order to figure out who is attempting to ruin her life and why, she enlists the help of Sherlock Holmes (Martin Thompson) and his assistant Dr. John Watson (John Wallace Combs) through a mutual connection, playwright Oscar Wilde (Scott Facher).
Early on, Holmes discovers that many of the characters involved, including the lady in distress, are not completely honest about their motives. From there, the play goes on to reveal more particulars about the mystery. These range from easily guessed clues dropped by characters to specific tidbits of information only Holmes is capable of discovering. In each case, enthralled audience members react with excitement and knowing smiles as new leads appear — enough to continually pique viewers’ interests as they wait to see how things play out.
As with many of Holmes’ adventures, the tidy conclusion to the mystery can be guessed halfway through the first act. The emphasis is on the journey — with spectators encouraged to analyze every situation as it unfolds, yet still left surprised moments before the lights fade to black. Despite the clear division between good guys and bad, each character is shown to have subtle qualities that humanize them. Nonjudgmental Holmes sometimes comes off as arrogant and slightly racist, with offhand remarks about other countries and cultures that might have been acceptable among the British then, but now seem inappropriate.
Thompson seems born to play Holmes. His continuously scanning eyes conjure an image that brings Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero to life beyond any perfect imagining of the character. Similarly, Collins does a very good job of portraying Langtry, while Facher’s Wilde and Alison Blanchard’s Irma Tory add an important lightness to the work — a contrast to the darker, more serious main characters. Ryan Moriarty, who was brought in as a last-minute understudy with only one day’s rehearsal during Thanksgiving weekend, was impressive as the dastardly evil mastermind, Professor Moriarty. However, his undefined accent, which was definitively not British, was a bit distracting from what was an otherwise good performance.
Jeff G. Rack’s set adds many secret compartments that completely transform the small stage in Theatre 40 and allow for smooth transitions throughout. Additionally, Jules Aaron’s direction creates a strong foundation for the ensemble, who deliver a well-paced mystery that Doyle fans can enjoy, and those less familiar with Holmes can use as an enticing introduction to London’s most-celebrated P.I.
Theatre 40, 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m; Mon., 8 p.m. only on Dec. 4 and 11. .; through Dec. 17 (310) 364-0535 or https://theatre40.org/tickets/. Running time: two hours with one 10-minute intermission.