The new year at West Hartford’s Playhouse on Park has begun on a disappointing note with the New England premiere of Kate Hamill’s “Ms. Holmes & Ms. Watson – Apt. 2B”. This gender-switch update of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous detective is trying extremely hard to entertain at the Playhouse with only middling results.
Onto POP’s cluttered stage we meet Joan (“Don’t call me doctor”) Watson (frazzled Kelly Letourneau) an expat in London looking for cheap housing as landlady Mrs. Hudson (Megan McDermott) shows her apartment 2B. Crashing into the room, rapier in hand, is Sherlock (“Don’t call me Shirley”) Holmes (Kirsten Peacock) who makes quite the first impression as Watson’s potential roommate. Somehow Holmes convinces Watson to stay and join her in various sleuthing adventures from Conan Doyle’s catalog – “cheerfully desecrated” as noted here by the playwright. That’s one way to describe it. Another is exhausting.
Under Kelly O’Donnell’s busy direction, there is barely a moment for the actors to catch their breath as they dash about London locales to various crime scenes meeting suspicious characters along the way. McDermott, joined by the sole male in the cast, Nick Nudler, do double and triple duty here switching wigs and accents with breathless alacrity. Indeed the cast of four is working very, very hard knocking themselves out to be funny. Unfortunately, we’re seeing them sweat and the material is neither consistently clever nor witty enough to justify so much effort. It also adds up to mass confusion and, by act two, if forced at gunpoint I could not tell you what the hell was going on.
O’Donnell, whose brilliant direction in POP’s production of “Indecent” last season, does what she can with the hopelessly convoluted script. The set is intricately detailed by designer Lindsay G. Fuori but it never really adapts smoothly for the several other locations required. Johann Fitzpatrick’s lighting and especially Rachel Landy’s expert sound design come off best in the show whose ungainly title is nearly as tedious as the 2 1/2 hour running time. I left the theatre battered and bruised.
“Ms. Holmes & Ms. Watson – Apr. 2B” continues at Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road in West Hartford, Connecticut through February 18. For further information and ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 860.523.5900 X10 or visit: www.playhouseonpark.org.