‘Curious Case’ is thoroughly engaging

Published on July 24, 2014
From left, Glenn Gaulton, Edward Goobie and Heather Rumancik appear in Shakespeare by the Sea Festival’s production of  “The Curious Case in the Colony.” — Submitted photo by Chris Hibbs

This year marks the fourth annual incarnation of “The Curious Case in the Colony,” performed in the Newman Wine Vaults on Water Street, a Sherlock Holmes mystery in which the peerless detective crosses the Atlantic to the colony of Newfoundland in order to solve a case. A new director takes over this year, Dave Walsh, together with a new Holmes and a different Watson — Edward Goobie and Glenn Gaulton — and a fresh femme fatale, Miss Ann, in the form of Heather Rumancik.

The set is simple, but effective. At the end of the vault on a shallow riser are chairs and a table filled with burning lanterns, lit candles, and a globe. At the other end of the vault is a folding screen for an early reveal.

Action shuttles up and down the length of the vault, within an arm’s length of audience on either side. Theatre doesn’t get much closer.  Period costumes are plausible and pleasing, with Conan Doyle’s pipe-smoking, Baker Street detective dressed in patented deer-stalker hat and cape. His down-to-earth companion, Dr. Watson, is less flamboyant, of course — though he does sport a natty overcoat with fur collar.

Gaulton’s steady and sturdy Watson is right on the money. And so is Goobie’s distinctive Holmes, with shaved head, deep-sunk eyes, and precise and fastidious speech. The two of them work well together.

Rumancik’s Miss Ann is spirited and articulate. Suspected of murdering her fiancé, she is saved from the gallows by the deductions of the master detective — accidental death, not murder.

This is latter-day, post-Doyle Sherlock Holmes. But it reminds one of how massively popular Doyle’s detective was in his own age. When the writer killed off Holmes in 1893 — pitched over the Reichenbach Falls while wrestling with master-villain and nemesis Moriarty — the British public was outraged. Doyle finally resurrected Holmes in 1901, bringing him back with Watson for the truly scary “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

Chris Hibbs’s thoroughly engaging “The Curious Case in the Colony” continues in the Newman Wine Vaults on Fridays and Saturdays until Aug. 16, starting at 8 p.m. On opening night, the briskly paced production raced to its curtain call in 45 minutes.

Space in the Vaults is limited, with seating for only 40 or so audience members in chairs lined along opposing walls of the narrow vault.

So, if you want to get in to see the show, don’t dilly-dally over acquiring tickets, which are priced at $25 and $20.