THE WEST END HORROR, a New Mystery of Sherlock Holmes. By Anthony Dodge
and Marcia Milgrom Dodge, from a novel by Nicholas Meyer. Directed by Marcia
Milgrom Dodge. Bay Street Theatre, Sag Harbor. Seen Friday, opening night.
Through July 7.
e thought we were in trouble almost as soon as the play began: The incident
that brings the great Sherlock Holmes back from overwhelming ennui is the
murder of a theater critic! This was not good, we feared, trying to hide a
suddenly huge notepad.
Not to worry. "The West End Horror, a New Mystery of Sherlock Holmes," a
melodrama that got its world premiere Friday night at the Bay Street Theatre in
Sag Harbor, does have its clever way with one's own dastardly profession. But
it takes plenty of shots at many other elements theatrical in late Victorian
"The West End Horror," adapted from the Nicholas Meyer novel by Anthony
Dodge and Marcia Milgrom Dodge (featuring Dodge himself as Dr. Watson) is a
dashingly clever play. It got a dashingly clever production, too - directed by
Late in 1895, Holmes (Terrence Mann) is rescued from himself by that
annoying Irishman, George Bernard Shaw (Wynn Harmon). Shaw begs Holmes to solve
the murder of a theater critic, the fictional Jonathan McCarthy. The
consulting detective (in bowler and overcoat, not deerstalker and cloak)
follows a scent into the West End, London's theater district.
They encounter William S. Gilbert (Martin Hillier), Sir Arthur Sullivan
(Mark Shanahan), impresario Henry Irving (Harmon), actress Ellen Terry (Dennis
Ryan), Oscar Wilde (Shanahan), Wilde's boyfriend Bosie (Jennifer Waldman) and
Bram Stoker (Hillier), all doing in the play just what they were doing in life.
Except for Mann and Anthony Dodge, who play single characters throughout,
the 34 other parts are played by four men and a woman, cross-dressing
continuously. It's another clever conceit: These rapid, repeated costume
changes (lush period clothing by Christianne Myers) add to the show's quality.
So do the scene changes (sets by Troy Hourie), done in full view while Holmes
and Watson circle the stage in their investigations.
The cleverness peaks with the dialogue and music, quotations from
Shakespeare, Millay, Sullivan, Wagner and others. The play is alternately dry
and farcical. There's nothing profound, and few guffaws, but lots of chuckles
and sighs of recognition.
In keeping with Holmes' stoicism, he is the only unflappable person on
stage. Dodge's Watson was slightly excitable. The rest of the characters,
individuals despite the multiple roles, were well over the top. Harmon's Shaw
was brilliant, and Shanahan's Wilde, Sullivan and Mrs. Hudson stood out for
their presence. Not to forget pianist Matt Kovich, whose playing was
alternately melodramatic and subtle.
Therefore, gentle theatergoer, expect two hours of sophisticated fun. Even
if you happen to be a critic.