A thoroughly mediocre melodrama chosen more for its marketability than its merit, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily cribs freely from Doyle’s stories (especially A Scandal in Bohemia), Wilde and Shakespeare without nabbing the flair or humour of any of those writers.
The problem isn’t just Jay Hindle’s uncomplicated, Dudley Deduce-Right take on the iconic sleuth. Katie Forgette’s exposition heavy script sets up a Holmes who has already solved the case. He solved it five minutes ago; that’s why he’s smiling.
There’s no tension, mystery or deeper conflict in this approach, just a chance to run around Brian Perchaluk’s impressive rotating set. The original stories got around this by riding shotgun with a clueless Watson or, at their best, pitting an angrily stumped Holmes against his intellectual equal. But while Gil Garratt’s giggling, scenery-chewing Moriarty is having the most fun onstage, he’s written as no match for Holmes.
So there’s no suspense or thrills. There is the chance for some good camp farce, and the play’s most successful scenes wink that way. But the script and James MacDonald’s direction don’t fully commit to that colourful back alley, and the only question left is if Holmes’ hard heart will warm to Sharon Bajer’s saucy Lillie Langtry.
Sherlock Holmes turns out to be a romance play. It’s a lonely flicker of light in two hours of lame jokes and boredom. The only other surprise was the lack of an opening night standing ovation from the balcony audience – surprising, but no mystery.
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily
By Katie Forgette
John Hirsch Stage (RMTC)
Through Oct 25
Directed by James MacDonald; with Sharon Bajer, Sarah Constible, Aidan DeSalaiz, Gil Garratt, Jay Hindle, Selma Holscker, Ryan James Miller and Carson Nattrass; set and costume design by Brian Perchaluk; lighting design by Scott Henderson; sound design by John Bent Jr.; fight direction by Jacqueline Loewen; dialect coaching by Shannon Vickers; apprentice directed by Rachel Smith; apprentice set and costume design by Darryl Audette; apprentice lighting design by Ksenia Broada-Milian; stage managed by Chris Pearce; assistant stage managed by Jessica Freundl; apprentice stage managed by Linsey Callaghan.