A mad dog and Englishmen rule in Ken Ludwig’s “Baskerville,” now on the Live Theatre Workshop page.
The comedy is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1901 Sherlock Holmes novel, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Doyle’s mysteries were known for the clue deciphering of the smart Holmes, not their humor.
Ludwig is known for his frantic, farcical comedies (“Lend Me A Tenor” is his most well-known).
In this, he keeps the clues and hews closely to the original story. But he adds the glitch that sparks the laughter: Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson are played by two actors; the remaining three cast members play about 40 characters.
The result is, while not frantic or farcical, very funny. Especially in the hands of this LTW cast, led by Stephen Frankenfield as Holmes. Frankenfield’s comic timing is pristine, and there is always a sense that the wheels are turning in his character’s head — which, of course, they would be in Holmes.
Eric Du infused his Dr. Watson with dignity and a certain pride in his ability to anticipate Holmes’ deductions. And Du exudes a natural warmth on stage.
Steve Wood, Matthew C. Copley and Debbie Runge handled the remaining nearly three dozen roles, and they did it with sometimes-strange accents, quick, onstage costume changes, and great abandon. Their antics provided the bulk of the humor.
The story, the third of Doyle’s Holmes novels, takes place in the spooky moors of England. It seems the heirs to a wealthy estate are being picked off one by one. And the murderer could well be the legendary — and perhaps not as mythical as many thought — hound with a wide streak of evil and supernatural powers.
The challenge intrigues Holmes, and he and Watson set off to solve the puzzle.
Director Christopher Moseley gave a clarity and fluidity to a play that changes scenes and characters nearly as quickly as clues are dropped in a Holmes novel. And speaking of scenes — Glen Bucy’s set design, which made use of pocket doors to change the backdrop and location, was pretty ingenious.
“Baskerville” is not as madcap as one might expect, but it is still loads of fun.