Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
Lamb's Players Theatre
Review by Bill Eadie

John Wells III and Brian Mackey
Photo by Ken Jacques
Ken Ludwig is one of the most prolific of contemporary playwrights. His Lend Me a Tenor (1985) touched off a writing career that Mr. Ludwig estimates produces one new work per year. He has been particularly interested in the character of Sherlock Holmes, who stars in two Ludwig plays: The Game's Afoot (2012) and Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery (2015). Baskerville features more than 40 characters played by five actors. (This device was not a new one: a theatrical adaptation of the Alfred Hitchcock's film The 39 Steps was produced as a four-character play in 2005.) Baskerville also has a history in San Diego, as The Old Globe presented one of its first productions.

Lamb's Players Theatre had a hit with a production of The 39 Steps, so the similarity of a small cast Baskerville must have been appealing. Unfortunately, actor Manny Fernandes was injured during rehearsals, and Michael Louis Cusimano had to ste into the roles Mr. Fernandes was playing, delaying the opening by a week.

As per the Ludwig formulation, Brian Mackey portrays Sherlock Holmes, and John Wells III portrays Dr. Watson. The other characters are enacted by Mr. Cusimano and ensemble members Omri Schein and Angela Chatelain Avila. Interestingly, Mr. Schein has written his own tale, The Remarkable Mr. Holmes, which played at North Coast Repertory Theatre this past season. Undoubtedly, all these works attest to the popularity Sherlock Holmes mysteries still have with audiences.

Given all these elements, why shouldn't Lamb's have a hit with Baskerville? The production is clearly up to this company's high standards, particularly Christian Turner's projection design, Nathan Peirson's lighting design, Jemma Dutra's costume design, and Deborah Gilmour Smyth's sound design. Perhaps it's the laconic feel of the pacing, led by Mr. Mackey's approach to Holmes as almost a hands-off detective, not even that pleased with his own insights. It may be the delayed opening, the new cast member, and that thing that might be called "company coherence," where everyone is in sync with each other. This quality is illusive and is primarily in the hands of co-directors Robert Smyth, who also holds the title of Producing Artistic Director, and Ms. Gilmour Smyth. For instance, Mr. Schein, who has a consistent "presence" in his performances, had trouble channeling that presence into the overall effect the night I was in the audience. Perhaps it was, to a small extent, inconsistent British dialects, as coached by Jillian Frost. Perhaps it was also, at least a little, mourning the recent death of company member David Cochran Heath, who would have made a splendid contribution to this production in any role he chose to take on.

Certainly, nothing major went awry, and perhaps my concerns are ill founded. The company deserves the benefit of the doubt, given how tough a road they had to hoe to get to their week-delayed opening. If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes, or if you have enjoyed past Lamb's Players Theatre productions, and you want to give this one a try, I see no reason to discourage you.

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery runs through November 20, 2022, and will return January 3-8, 2023, at Lamb's Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado CA. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m., with matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 2 .p.m. Parking is available on side streets. For tickets and information, please visit