Through May 13th at the Whippoorwill Hall Theater within the North Castle Public Library
By Matt Smith
“The time is upon us sooner than I expected. The theatre of deathly intent begins, and we have front row seats!” So exclaims Sherlock Holmes at the climax of The Hound of the Baskervilles, the most recent production of Hudson Stage Company www.hudsonstage.com, having ultimately solved his case. And of course, he’s here referencing the insanity about to ensue, as he and his bumbling sidekick Dr. Watson attempt to expose their perpetrator for who he or she really is. But there’s no question he could easily be speaking of the very show in which he appears. Indeed, this laugh-a-minute comedic masterpiece, based on the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, now playing at the Whippoorwill Hall Theater through May 13, is, simply put, a delightful romp.
The plot follows the renowned detective and his ragtag group of friends and colleagues through their journey to unveil the killer of Sir Charles Baskerville, and determine the true identity of the hound who lay beside him. Mistaken identities, rapid-fire quick changes, farcical asides, and an array of expertly executed accents are all part of the fun, as Holmes uncovers new surprises — to both the audience and to himself — at every corner.
But while the story is indeed entertaining, the real enjoyment is in watching the talented cast of three winning men display their impeccable comedic skill. Matt Ban effortlessly exhibits his mastery of physical comedy, indulging in the play’s (intentionally) overacted and exaggerated instances, rolling around the floor in one minute and bounding about the stage in the next. (Of note, he does a particularly clever bit with a bush, eliciting a ROFL response from Denis Lambert’s Holmes).
Joe Delafield, meanwhile, has a firm grasp on the zany one-liners and multiple costume changes, and Lambert’s knack for accents (especially when dressed as Latina bombshell, Cecile), is, in a word, unmatched.
It’s really exciting when the skills of these three masterminds collide and blend into each other, each one taking a piece from the other two. No better is this exemplified than at the top of the second act, when, irked by a faux tweet sent by an anonymous audience member, Lambert demands they repeat the first act in its entirety. Any who might think this to be an arduous, lengthy or unnecessary task will definitely think again once they see the guns-blazing, lightning-speed, lickety-split result. It all helps to prove that the show’s a team effort and no one cast member can survive (pun definitely involved) without the other three. Director Mark Shanahan has smartly utilized each of his actors, all of which, it should be noted, come with their share of Broadway experience, and their teamwork is not to be missed.
Also enjoyable for the diehard theatre fan is the fact that the play is rife with self-referential jokes and banter. In the style of Monty Python and the Marx Brothers in which this show is based, the players cleverly (and consistently!) break the fourth wall, letting us in on the fact that they know they’re actors in a show (Particularly notable is Holmes tipping over a plate of sausages, noting, “They’re stuck to the plate,” after Watson asks for a bite, or when Watson asks to question Mrs. Barrymore, his male equivalent quips, wheeling a set piece into the wings, quips, “Very well, sir, as soon as I’ve finished parking the bed”).
Again, it’s this kind of dry wit and silly humor, coupled with the threesome’s ability to execute it so darn well, that allows for such an enjoyable evening. So, sit back, let go, laugh at yourself (and others, of course) and just indulge. I mean, what’s stopping you? It’s close, it’s affordable, and it’s HILARIOUS! You’re sure to have a howling good time!
Whippoorwill Hall Theater is located within North Castle Public Library at 19 Whippoorwill Road East in Armonk. The Hound of the Baskervilles plays at the venue through May 13th. Also, visit HudsonStage.com for ticket info and to learn about upcoming productions.
Matt Smith is a writer and contributor to The Inside Press. For further information or inquiry, please visit www.matttheater.com