From the open air to a very closed vault, the variety in this year’s Shakespeare by the Sea theatre festival offered something for every weather forecast.
Luckily, the bard himself may have been looking down, for most shows went off during a succession of warm summer eves.
However, for those muggy, foggy evenings when some creeping out was in order, Chris Hibbs’ “A Curious Case in the Colony: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure” played every Sunday and Monday evening in the Newman Wine Vaults on the west end of Water Street.
A damp, shadowy, claustrophobic stone vault greets audience members, who file along the walls of the long, narrow room.
On the stage, smoking a pipe and staring intently ahead is Sherlock Holmes (Morris Hodder).
Just as viewers get settled, he stands abruptly and stalks through the room, out the door.
Watson (Tim Foss) shows up shortly after.
It is the spring of 1893 and Watson’s wife has recently passed, leaving him to move back into 221B Baker St.
When summoned by his mysterious mentor, Watson travels to the British colony of St. John’s, Newfoundland, where Holmes is keeping watch over young and petulant Miss Anne (Olivia Heaney), whose beloved has disappeared and whose father is worried about her wellbeing and whereabouts.
Hibbs’ script is true to the famous novels, with the rapport between Holmes and Watson endearingly big-little brother.
It is set between the adventure of “The Final Problem” (April 1891) and “The Adventure of the Empty House” (April 1894), during the period dubbed as The Great Hiatus.
Holmes’ wry, clever British wit exudes an air of superiority while letting his affection for Watson show through.
His ingenue entertains him, and his quips are seeping in subtle innuendo and sarcasm, never missing a chance to take a playful stab at Watson’s naivete.
Peppered throughout are local references that bring St. John’s in the late 1800s to life, such as the great fire of 1892 and a city being rebuilt, and references to familiar street names and areas of the city.
They speak of Miss Anne coming to Newfoundland to find her purpose — a common theme amongst immigrants to the island.
The actors are true professionals.
The accents are authentic, and the delivery booms through the vault with gusto. They clearly have fun with the role.
Miss Heaney plays Anne with a feisty vengeance combined with a charming innocence that makes her a likeable character.
The show has been sold out throughout the summer, with lineups starting an hour before performance time.
Although finished for this year, it is a taste of what can usually be expected in Vault productions.