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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

The Game's Afoot at Barter Theatre

From left, Professor Moriarty (Eugene Wolf) matches wits with world-famous detective Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas Piper) in Barter Theatre's
From left, Professor Moriarty (Eugene Wolf) matches wits with world-famous detective Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas Piper) in Barter Theatre's "The Case of the Jersey Lily."

Review of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Jersey Lily


If you've been hankering for a right jolly bit of theatrical sleuthing British style, you'd be hard put to it, indeed, to ferret out better fare than Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily, now on the venerable old boards of the Barter Theatre's Main Stage.

It's the early 1890s in London, and Sherlock Holmes' archenemy, Professor Moriarty, is attempting to blackmail the famous actress Lillie Langtry over some indiscretions romantíque in which she has been involved with no less than the royal family itself. Add to this mix 10,000 pounds, a goodly share of the royal family jewels and the flamingly flamboyant playwright and poet Oscar Wilde, and the game is definitely afoot if ever one was.

Nick Piper and Rick McVey are brilliant as Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. Watson, but the star of the show has to be– most definitely has to be – David McCall as Wilde. From my somewhat limited knowledge and appreciation of Wilde, I must say that McCall has perfectly captured the role by being utterly foppish, while, at the same time, not hamming it up as would too easily be the temptation. He even manages to look like the photographs that I have seen of Wilde.

Jill Anderson plays Langtry to great effect as she gets repeatedly formaldehyde, threatened and even tied up in the best traditions of English mystery femmes fatale.

Sean Campos does double-duty in this one as both Abdul Karim and the bumbling, wannabe tough guy sidekick to Moriarty, John Smythe. Mary Lucy Bivins also appears in a couple of roles, both, of course, quite admirably done.

Newcomer Shirley Cottage, however, turns in a performance that is absolutely ethereal and more than well worth the extravagant expense incurred by London's Peasesoup Airlines in fully underwriting the export of such a lovely tin of British biscuit to Abingdon-on-the-Creek-du-Towne.

And if all this wasn't enough there is a thrilling bit of swashbuckling sword play between our hero and Moriarty worthy of Captain Hook and Peter Pan. Bravo! Oh, bravo!

Katy Brown directs this most excellent entertainment with her usual flair and timing that makes Big Ben himself positively envious.

The sets are absolutely capital, and the costumes, especially the dresses, are enough to have the real Wilde positively twitching in his grave.

This is a play quite appropriate for all ages and, although pistols, swords and formaldehyde-soaked handkerchiefs are all in evidence, nobody actually ends up displayed in a cigar box, lead ventilated or shish-kabobed. Holmes, quite rightly, wins the day, mi' lady's honor escapes intact, the royal family's stiff upper lip remains unflapped and Professor Moriarty is foiled, but escapes to scheme another day.

The only caution I would have is that if you, like me, are a bit aurally-impaired you might want to avail yourself of one of the Barter's nifty little hearing assistance headsets because the lines come thick and fast in this one. The use of these headsets is gratis and they may be checked out at the refreshment stand in the lobby.

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily is afoot through Nov. 13, 2010.

A! ExtraTopics: Review, Theatre