Studio Players' 'Hound of the Baskervilles' puts Holmes in his place: the 19th century

rcopley@herald-leader.comMarch 7, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    'The Hound of the Baskervilles'

    What: Tim Kelly's stage adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mystery.

    When: 8 p.m. March 7-9, 15, 16, 22, 23, and 2:30 p.m. March 10, 17 and 24.

    Where: Carriage House Theatre, 154 W. Bell Ct.

    Tickets: $19, $11 students. Available at the Singletary Center for the Arts ticket office. Call (859) 257-4929 or go to Singletarycenter.com.

Not many 127-year-olds are as hot as Sherlock Holmes these days.

Despite myriad new sleuths who have come along since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published the detective's debut, A Study in Scarlet, in 1887, Holmes commands unique attention in multiple formats and continents.

There are currently two Sherlock Holmes TV series in production, by CBS and the BBC/PBS. Then there is the film franchise starring Robert Downey Jr.

All of those Sherlocks put their own spins on the iconic sleuth.

But in Lexington, theater troupe Studio Players aims to take us back to the roots of the stories with The Hound of the Baskervilles, opening this weekend.

"A lot of the recent versions of Holmes have him in the modern world, using things like cell phones and DNA testing," says Gary McCormick, director of the Studio show. "I wanted to go back to a version of Holmes we're all familiar with."

Studio's Hound of the Baskervilles has Holmes smoking a pipe and wearing the traditional deerstalker hat that he has long been associated with.

There are a lot of common associations with Holmes: his steadfast sidekick, Dr. Watson; his address, 221B Baker Street in London; his informants, the Baker Street Irregulars; and the exclamation "elementary."

At the heart of it all is mystery, says Georgetown resident Charles Edward Pogue, a playwright and screenwriter. He has had wide experience with Holmes, including writing several television adaptations of Holmes and a stage play, The Ebony Ape, which has been performed in Lexington.

"Sherlock Holmes was the first detective that made the art of detection popular," says Pogue, whose TV adaptations include The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four, both of which starred Ian Richardson as Holmes in 1983 for British television, and Hands of a Murderer in 1990 for CBS, starring Edward Woodward.

"He methodically solved crimes," Pogue says. "He looked at the facts and deduced information from the things that were in front of him. It became the basis not only for detective literature, but also crime investigation."

Pogue says Holmes is something of a precursor to what is now a benchmark TV format, the procedural drama such as the CSI and NCIS franchises. But he says, "Those are almost pure investigation without a lot of character development."

It seems little wonder, then, that television would bring Holmes back into the procedural fold with Elementary. The hit CBS series is in its first season, starring Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and, in a twist, Lucy Liu as a female Watson in modern-day New York. It airs at 10 p.m. Thursdays.

Pogue says he prefers the BBC's Sherlock, now in its third season, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins in last year's The Hobbit) as Watson. Like Elementary, Sherlock, seen in the United States as part of PBS's Masterpiece series, places the detective in current days.

"It's a brilliant modernization," Pogue says. "They still made it personal and still made it vital."

Sherlock reportedly won't return to American television until late this year or early 2014.

Pogue says he's not a purist and has no major problems with any of the current Holmes incarnations. "There's great fun in the Robert Downey movies," he says. "The problem is it's not Sherlock Holmes."

What he misses in some of those adaptations is the ability to play along.

"The thing with Conan Doyle is he would lay everything out there so you could play detective with Holmes, and if you're smart, you can figure it out," Pogue says.

That's what Anderson hopes will happen when audiences see Studio's adaptation — cap, pipe and all.

"It's all about the mystery," McCormick says, "and good versus evil, and the good guy winning."


IF YOU GO

'The Hound of the Baskervilles'

What: Tim Kelly's stage adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mystery.

When: 8 p.m. March 7-9, 15, 16, 22, 23, and 2:30 p.m. March 10, 17 and 24.

Where: Carriage House Theatre, 154 W. Bell Ct.

Tickets: $19, $11 students. Available at the Singletary Center for the Arts ticket office. Call (859) 257-4929 or go to Singletarycenter.com.

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: Copiousnotes.bloginky.com.

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