'Sherlock's Secret Life' reviewed


What is it about a mystery that draws audiences to it, be they in a movie theater, an amphitheater, or on the sofa? Robby Henson says its the appeal of the hooks and the dances.

"The audience is hooked in the first scene of the first act to find out what happens at the end," explains Henson, director of Pioneer Playhouse's upcoming mystery, "Sherlock's Secret Life." "There's a solid foundation of whodunit but the characters and actors can do their dance on top of it."

"Sherlock's Secret Life," written by Ed Lange, with music by Will Severin, is "a mystery about mysterious woman (played by Diana Cherkas) with amnesia who comes between Sherlock (Michael Muldoon) and Watson (Paul Angelo, as the younger Watson). She tests the loyalty and friendship of the detecting duo, Henson adds.

"Is she an innocent victim or a French spy?" he says. "Only the end of the play will reveal (the answer)."


Directing a mystery requires a disciplined approach, Henson indicates.

"You have to be aware of a sense of set up and pay off," he explains, "so the audience feels satisfied with the clues that were set up early on.

"I like the cast this year - they like biting into the eccentric quirks of high-class British characters. That Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant detective and mathematician seems completely lost when love enters the picture. He's an absent-minded professor dealing with it."

Henson likes the choice of "Sherlock" for the second play, which this year is sponsored by First Southern National Bank through the efforts of Jess Correll.

"Sometimes there is a drop off on the second play," Henson says of audience attendance at Pioneer Playhouse over the years.

"The second play is always the unique spot. This one is a full-bodied crowd-pleaser."

The play's title reflects "an episode Sherlock swore Watson to secrecy about."

"It was a secret episode so earth-shattering to Sherlock that he would never want it revealed."

The play is set in two time periods: The older Watson (Eben French Mastin) reflects back on the escapades of his youth in 1890 Victorian England.

"It's a younger Watson and Holmes than people are familiar with," Henson says of the flashback characters. "They like dating.

"It's a fresh, edgier Sherlock."

That novel take on Sherlock Holmes is part of why audiences should like "Sherlock's Secret Life."

"It's a fun and quirky Sherlock with a very gripping reveal (at the end)," Henson adds.

Part of the fun of the play is its irreverent approach to Victorian society, he notes.

"The language is stylized and a bit grandiose to reflect Victorian styles and mores," he explains. "There is a lightness of the characters that undercuts that with an eccentricity that is fun for the actors to play with.

"The play pokes a little fun at the pomp and circumstance of high-class manners."

The accent of the language also is something of an issue, Henson says.

"We try not to go to a deep British accent," he explains. "We are careful not to go to a deep accent that our audiences have trouble understanding.

"We're attacking the challenge with verve and vigor."

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