REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure

Sherlock Holmes Chicago Idle Muse review

The Game’s Afoot


Sherlock Holmes - Idle Muse 1

Idle Muse Theatre presents
Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure
By Arthur Conan Doyle and William Guilette
Adapted by
Steven Dietz
Directed by Evan Jackson
the side project, 1439 W. Jarvis (map)
through August 22  |  tickets: $15-$20  |  more info

reviewed by Barry Eitel

Idle Muse Theatre’s production of Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure makes it clear that it is different. They do their best to avoid falling back on any typical depictions of Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional genius. Don’t expect huge smoking pipes and capes or any neurotic antics a la Robert Downey, Jr. Director Evan Jackson Sherlock Holmes - Idle Muse 2 succeeds in coming up with his own spin on the Victorian-era play by Doyle and actor William Guilette, cleverly adapted by Steven Dietz. Luke Hamilton’s dapper Sherlock injects cocaine (a trait from the novels often overlooked in adaptations) and the space basks in steampunk nostalgia. Jackson and his team make bold choices, of which a fair amount fail, but they are able to keep the storm of suspense gathering on the tiny side project stage.

The ambitious play dramatizes Holmes’ last adventure, one where he faces his mortality at every twist and turn. It starts with Dr. Watson (Nathan Pease) eulogizing about his comrade. Then we’re thrown into the thick of the final case. The King of Bohemia (Brian Bengston) wants the duo to retrieve a salacious photo of him and Irene Adler (Elizabeth MacDonald). This seemingly inane investigation heats up when another long-time Doyle character, Professor Moriarty (Nathan Thompson), is linked to the caper. By then, as the saying goes, the game is afoot.

Dietz’s adaptation captures Doyle’s snappy sense of wit and intelligence. Holmes and Watson wax philosophical and, occasionally, poetical. There’s an authenticity that runs through the piece; it’s neither over-contemporized nor over-researched. The major flaw with the play is that it’s too neat. Dietz takes a Hollywood approach to the plot, bringing together all the major players of the series for one last hoorah. Moriarty and Holmes are simply painted as the villain and hero of this story, a stale aspect of this otherwise deftly-written show.

Sherlock Holmes - Idle Muse 5 Sherlock Holmes - Idle Muse 4

Sans goofy hat, Hamilton is remarkably charming as Holmes. With a script that meditates on death as much as this one, you need an actor who can humanize a character like Holmes. Hamilton finds all of it, layering on anxiety, love, and fear into Sherlock’s calculating psyche. He and Pease have fine chemistry, brotherly yet sometimes catty. The mousy Pease takes awhile to warm up to his long addresses to the audience, but he grabs control by the second act. MacDonald plays well against the two men. Her Irene Adler can be as cold as Holmes, a great choice for the character. The weak spot of the cast is Thompson, who ruins the quick pace with his pause-prone take on Moriarty. With such an atypical take on Sherlock, it’s a shame Moriarty is portrayed so two-dimensional. Thompson comes off as stock “slimy evil genius,” a choice that gets boring pretty quickly.

Moriarty’s reptilian essence is one of several missteps Jackson makes. For example, the supporting cast lacks the clarity of Hamilton and Pease. And the ending is marred by a deflating bout of stage combat, one that would have been better left to the imagination than illustrated.

Idle Muse definitely wins some, too. Dennis Mae’s set, which includes a maze of copper piping, is wonderful and flexible to all sorts of environments. Place is noted by beautiful etchings hung from the grid. And the production sits firmly with Idle Muse’s ‘poor theatre’ mission statement. The industrial world presented here feels both modern and old, a statement that could describe most of the production. However, it’s the commitment to honesty that really drives this show forward. While the mystery is kind of easy, we still want to follow Holmes along. Like Doyle’s books, it’s not really about the case, but the detective.

Rating: ★★½

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Cast of:   Sherlock Holmes – The Final Adventure

Holmes-Luke-HamiltonLuke Hamilton – Sherlock Holmes

Luke is excited to be working with Idle Muse Theatre for the first time and thankful for the opportunity.  Professional credits include"Two Gentlemen of Verona" with Shakespeare on the Green (Lake Forest, IL).  Regional credits include "The Taming of the Shrew" with Chase Park Theatre (Chicago), "Line" with Oracle Theatre (Chicago), "Temptation" with Blackjack Productions (Chicago), "Damn Everything But the Circus" at the Seattle Fringe Theater Festival, "Nicholas Nickleby" and "Julius Caesar" at the Robinson Theatre (Eugene, OR).  Luke is a graduate of the University of Oregon. (Col 3:17)



Moriarty-Nathan-ThompsonNathan Thompson – Professor James Moriarty
Nathan Thompson is glad to return to Idle Muse after his role in "What the Weird Sisters Saw." He graduated from Knox College in ’05 with a bachelors in Theatre, and then moved to Chicago where he has been acting ever since.  He was recently in Silent Theatre‘s "The Set-Up", Clock Productions "Six Scary Tales" and he is an acting member of Fury Theatre‘s Shakespeare All-Stars troupe.


Watson-Nathan-PeaseNathan Pease – Dr. John H. Watson

Nathan Pease is delighted to be making his Idle Muse Theatre debut! Nathan’s regional favorites include Bruce in "Blue/Orange", Demetrius in "Midsummer Night’s Dream", Roderigo in "Othello", Anthony in "The House of Yes", Rudy in"Bent", both Dromio twins in "The Comedy of Errors" and the title roles in"Richard III", "Frankenstein", and "The Hobbit" among others. Thanks and love to his wonderful and supporting wife Sara and son Anthony.


Irene-Elizabeth-MacDougaldElizabeth MacDougald – Irene Adler

Elizabeth MacDougald (Irene Adler) is thrilled to be returning to Idle Muse as "the woman”. She was previously seen with Idle Muse romping through the wilds of medieval Scotland last summer doing “a deed without a name” in“What The Weird Sisters Saw”. A graduate of Loyola University Chicago, other favorite roles around Chicago include Chris Gorman in "Rumors", Suzanne et. al. in "Picasso at the Lapin Agile", Kate in "The Taming of the Shrew" and Hippolyta/Titannia in "A Midsummer Night’s Dream", and an Artistic Associate with Babes with Blades. Many thanks to Evan for letting her tackle such an iconic character (even it did mean wearing a corset in Chicago in the summer…oh who are we kidding; the corset is hers and she volunteered), her fellow Victorian-clad cast mates, her family and friends, and her lovely boy Steve and her ever patient familiar Willow.


brian-bengstromBrian Bengtson – King of Bohemia

Brian Bengtson is excited to return for his third show with Idle Muse. He was last seen with the company this past spring in "Jerry and Tom".  Since graduating from Augustana College, Brian has spent the past year and a half acting in and around Chicago with numerous companies such as Village Players "Chad Morton’s TV Christmas Miracle", Team Venture Productions "Fostered Ideal" & "Just Us Two", The Attic Playhouse "Cold Cold Feet" & "The Mousetrap", James Downing Theatre Company "Forever Plaid", and The Just Passing By Theatre Company "Fiddler on the Roof" & "Jesus Christ Superstar".  He’s also appeared in several student films as well as the short independent film, "Judy Can’t Stop". Brian sincerely thanks his family and friends for their constant support. Enjoy the show!

Sid-Prince-Jaron-SalazarJaron Salazar – Sid Prince

Jaron Salazar came from Arkansas to attend college in Chicago and major in theatre arts.  He has worked on many productions at Dominican University, such as "MacBeth" and "Lend Me A Tenor", and is thrilled to have an opportunity to perform in a professional play.  After college Jaron plans to get into v more professional theatre and hopes to become a film actor someday. Jaron would like to thank all of those who have helped him as an actor and those who made his participation in this production possible.

Larrabee-Matthew-GibsonMatthew Gibson – James Larabee

Matt is very excited to have his professional debut with Idle Muse, who recently just graduated from Dominican University with a degree in Theatre.  His most recent credits include Tito Merelli in "Lend Me a Tenor", Kinesias in"Lysistrata", and the Baker in "Into the Woods".  He would like to thank his friends, family, and especially his parents for all their support over the years.

Madge-Mara-KovacevicMara Kovacevic – Madge Larabee

Mara Kovacevic is a full-time full time science geek and a part-time theatre nerd. She was last seen in "What the Weird Sisters Saw", an Idle Muse production, as one of the three "Scottish Play" witches — Cassandra. As a life-long Sherlock Holmes fan, she is very excited to be a part of this amazing production and in the role of a criminal, no less! Previous credits include, but not limited to, "Bloody Poetry", "Ceremony of Innocence", "Burning Chrome", "While Shakespeare Slept", "Medea", and"Baby". She is also the Treasurer for Idle Muse Theatre Company as purse strings are near and dear to her heart.

daniel-villaumeDaniel Villaume – Ensemble

Daniel is stoked to find himself working with Idle Muse again, and is very grateful for the opportunity.  While at Illinois State University’s School of Theatre, he appeared as Malviolio in "Twelfth Night" and as Edward Nigma in the world premier of "Gallery". He has spent the last year as a self-proclaimed "storefront cowboy", bouncing around the Chicago theatre scene, working with companies such as Oracle Theatre and New World Repertory, and also fringe groups like Sandhill and The Co-Governors of Space.  Recently, he was seen walking around stage in his boxers as part of Just Say Yes Entertainment‘s "24 Hour Plays" at Gorilla Tango, and as a murderer in Idle Muse’s "Shotgun Shakespeare: What the Weird Sisters Saw". He does his best work under the influence of too much coffee and the music of Jason Webley.   From here, Daniel knows not where he goes.


All pictures and bios courtesy of Idle Muse Theatre’s website.


One Response

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