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Halfhearted reveal

Sherlock Holmes and the Doom of Devilsmoor has entertaining moments, but ultimately lacks explanation and inspiration

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In any Sherlock Holmes story, there is a set of core elements the common viewer has come to expect. I intend common to mean those like me, who have never read one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original novels, and knows Holmes the legend, Holmes the detective archetype, more than Holmes the original character.

Foremost in the presumed Holmesian architecture are the massive and repeated leaps of deductive reasoning. The combination of a dozen tiny clues, imperceptible to the audience, or even the fellow characters, to reach far-fetched but inevitably correct conclusions. The clay in a boot tread, ash on the fingertips. ...

Entirely believable? Perhaps not. But this is part of the fun of Holmes. And this is one of the main places C.P. Stancich's new play, Sherlock Holmes and the Doom of Devilsmoor, having its West Coast debut at Lakewood Playhouse, falls short.

Certainly, it remains clear Holmes is a detective of the first rank, respected by all for his intellect. But his actual deductive powers are only vaguely on display in the opening scene.

The ultimate crime is solved via a single clue, which, while subtle, becomes quite obvious to each character when pointed out - unlike the typical bafflement expected from anyone who is not Holmes. Other "mysteries" have their solutions presented almost immediately.

Gone also is the typical antagonism between the brilliant detective and the (if not bumbling, then certainly less-capable) professional police.

There is sufficient entertainment to be gleaned from the production. Malcolm Sturdevant has an interesting turn as the vaguely jealous and snarky Oscar Dove, reveling in his prior history with Holmes, and his humorously nervous interactions with the stern housekeeper, Mrs. Selkirk, as portrayed by Leigh Duncan.

Other members of the cast do not fare quite as well. Tim Shute's Holmes and David Phillips's Watson lack any of the chemistry and vitality other acting pairs have had in the roles. They feel less like adventuring companions and more like a detective and a doctor who have met once or twice.

Ultimately, what The Doom of Devilsmoor lacks is explanation and inspiration. The initial victim of the play, Nathaniel Quinn's Edward Banks, hints at a lengthy harassment as his reason for attempting to retain the detective, but no details are ever provided, save for the instances we see on stage. The final justification behind these incidents is vague at best, relegated to the recollection of a past conversation that, like so many elements of the play, happened out of sight of the audience, only mentioned long after the halfhearted reveal.

Devilsmoor stands as a passable detective story, filled as it is with entertaining surprises, bloody swords, cryptic messages and an overzealous fog machine - hopefully a kink of preview night.  Stancich remains one of the area's most clever and talented playwrights. His dialogue entertains, his shocks shock and at least some of his mysteries baffle. But it didn't feel, at least to an inexperienced viewer such as myself (and most of us), like Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes and the Doom of Devilsmoor

Through Oct. 24, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23 and Sunday, $16.50-$22.50,
Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood

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Gwynn said on Sep. 30, 2010 at 2:14pm

Malcolm is most certainly a wonderful actor and with great potential. I do look forward to seeing him perform in his upcoming works. What a gift he has!!

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