As the wind and light of Boise begins to transform, so does the mood at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, whose last production for the season is The Hound of the Baskervilles. The outdoor theater, in the midst of the foothills and with turkey vultures circling overhead, sets the stage for the ominous play. Originally written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this Sherlock mystery was adapted for the stage by Steven Canny and John Nicholson. The Idaho-based production is directed by Charles Fee, who is also the artistic director of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and features actors Jeffrey C. Hawkins, Lynn Robert Berg and Dougfred Miller.
One of the best-known Sherlock mysteries, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” follows the detective Sherlock Holmes and his partner, John Watson, to uncover the untimely death of Sir Charles Baskerville and the unfortunate fate of the Baskerville line. Accompanied by the new heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, madness and suspicious characters ensue at the family estate and moor to discover the curse of the Baskervilles.
Accompanied by a flurry of costumes and accents, the three-person play—plus two mannequins—is a whirlwind intertwining comedy and mystery. The play is also a very self-aware production, which is founded upon a witty interaction with the audience. “The Hound of the Baskervilles” questions the seriousness of Victorian Sherlock Holmes. The chemistry of Hawkins, Berg and Miller toys with the traditional play structure in order to cultivate an amusing and ingenious story.
Against a backdrop of bookshelves and a neon outline of a hound, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” relies on convincing acting and costumes to transport the audience to different locations around Victorian London. Through clever staging and smooth blocking, the movements of the stage create the illusion of a full cast of characters. The production illustrates a solid and cliched scene of the beloved classic through standard lighting and costuming. Ultimately, the staging and restaging of the two acts drives the plot for the length of the play.
I would recommend this play for any students looking for an untraditional adaptation of a play that knowingly breaks the fourth wall. Peering into the audience and questioning the archetypes of Sherlock Holmes, “The Hound of the Baskervilles is a self-aware novelty.