By Katie Forgette. Directed by William B. Davis. A Theatre Crossing production. At the Jericho Arts Centre on Tuesday, December 30. Continues until January 10
Watching Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily is like watching an episode of a decent BBC period piece: it’s solidly executed, pleasantly diverting, but not particularly challenging.
In Katie Forgette’s script, Sherlock Holmes meets Oscar Wilde—literally. Oscar is seeking help for his friend, another real-life Victorian, actress Lillie Langtry. Lillie is a former mistress of one Bertie, now better known as King Edward VII, and someone has stolen their intimate correspondence and is demanding a large sum from Lillie for the return of the letters. But who is responsible for the blackmail and what do they really want? That’s where Holmes comes in, and the plot, as they say, thickens.
Forgette has a lot of fun mixing historical personages and fictional characters. Not only does Holmes show off his fabled powers of observation as a detective, but he’s also been supplying his friend Oscar with titles for his plays, and it turns out he’s responsible for some of Wilde’s best lines, too, in his incognito reading of Lady Bracknell’s part in a scene from a work-in-progress tentatively called The Importance of Being Forthright. The blend of mystery and comedy is enjoyable, but the script is overly chatty in places, and the jokes, especially early in the play, sometimes feel a bit forced.
Director William B. Davis has assembled a supremely talented cast for this production, and their excellent acting is its greatest strength. Corina Akeson’s Lillie is a woman with plenty to hide, and her portrayal is a wicked cocktail of charm, hauteur, and wounded dignity. Seth Little has a blast with the role of Oscar Wilde: he gets the best lines (“I’m so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I’m saying”) and delivers them with dainty gestures that feel natural for someone so deliberately artificial. Bill Croft, Matt Loop, and Mia Ingimundson are all superb as the villains of the piece. Brent Fidler’s delivery as Sherlock Holmes feels a bit stiff at times, but he is a solid rational and moral anchor to the proceedings, and Tim Bissett makes an affable Watson.
The production is also strong visually, thanks to John R. Taylor’s handsome, detailed set, Rafaella Rabinovich’s costumes, and the gorgeous silent-film sequences that open each act.
If you want to postpone your postholiday return to the real world, this light, pleasing entertainment might be just the ticket.