Theatre Review: Theatre Calgary and Holmes do it again

By Emily Baum

He’s a genius of the highest order, a lover of music, a talented violinist and a drug addict. Possibly the best known super sleuth in history, his powers of observation are legendary. He labors relentlessly to aid humanity, aggressively pursuing crime while despising the majority of the common people. Consistently boggling the mind, he’s, if you haven’t guessed by now, none other than the infamous Sherlock Holmes. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the 1890s, Holmes’s reputation for taking interesting cases involving deep plot twists and nefarious criminals make absorbing mystery stories. It’s that same absorbing mystery Theatre Calgary seeks and succeeds in reproducing in their latest production.

This newest case, called The Woman and the Spider, recreates with artistic license Sherlock Holmes’ epic battle with his intellectual equal and nemesis the malignant Professor Moriarty. The curtain opens on the Larrabees, a brother and sister crime team holding a young woman prisoner in order gain access to papers in her possession to extort a member of the German aristocracy. Sherlock Holmes is sought out and engaged by that same member in order to avoid any personal scandal or monetary loss. Sherlock Holmes easily frustrates the efforts of the Larrabees, and in an attempt at salvaging a promising criminal scenario, they appeal to the emperor of London crime, Moriarty. Holmes and Moriarty square off in a deadly puzzle using their available means to prevail over the other.

Eric Nyland plays Sherlock Holmes, in his Theatre Calgary debut, with lively animation and a conceptual understanding of the darker side of Holmes. His willingness to embrace the black melancholy that historically assailed Holmes, added the literary layers to the stage personality as well as adding an element of authenticity. While younger looking then the original illustrations by Sidney Edward Paget, Nyland’s performance as Sherlock Holmes is laudable and endearing.

On the other side of the coin, longtime stage veteran Blair Williams walks the stage boards as the devious Professor Moriarty. Much of William’s dialogue as Moriarty includes original text from the novel which Sherlock fans are sure to appreciate. Williams aptly summons the right mixture of charm, voracity and malignant evil expected from Moriarty. The cast is an incredibly well balanced ensemble, pulling together to perform an entertainingly engrossing mystery.

The sets and lighting are absolutely breathtaking with their ingenuity. Paul Mathiesen has outdone himself in the lighting department–a central aspect to the quality of any play set in 19th century London. While Scott Reid and his team for set designed have brought to life one of the finest theatre sets in Calgary. And it’s all held together by the competent Ian Prinslow, Theatre Calgary’s Artistic Director.

Sherlock Holmes is the type of play everyone will enjoy. This is a great show to bring your non-theatre-loving friends to, unabashedly and purely fun, there is no deep message or moving monologues to get in the way of good entertainment. You’ll smile, laugh, jump, and, above all, enjoy yourself. So make a date with a legend, let him impress you with his extraordinary deductive reasoning and guide you with his brilliant cunning through a mystery that won’t fail to entertain.

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