The game is once again afoot in St. Paul: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily has taken up residence at Park Square Theatre. As storm-drenched patrons made their way into the theater Friday night, one gentleman could be heard muttering aloud, “This better be worth it.” And it was—with the right expectations. If theatergoers expect the production to be as witty and action-packed as last fall’s major motion picture featuring the famous detective, they may be disappointed, but the play does offer an evening of humor, mystery, disguises and, at times, even a touch of romance.
Written by Seattle playwright Katie Forgette and directed by David Mann, Park Square’s most recent Holmes production infuses historical characters into a story about our favorite detective (Steve Hendrickson) pitted against his arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty (James Cada). The play begins when well-known actress Lillie Langtry (Virginia Burke) asks for Holmes’s assistance recovering letters and photographs that divulge a past affair with the Prince of Wales. At stake is a one-of-a-kind necklace made from the Crown Jewels, the royal family’s reputation, and perhaps much, much more. A well-crafted series of mistaken identities, twists, and turns unfold as Holmes takes on the case to return Langtry’s letters and the Crown Jewels to their rightful owners.
|sherlock holmes and the case of the jersey lily, presented through july 3 at park square theatre. for information and tickets ($20), see parksquaretheatre.org|
While the script is well-written, there is little depth to the mystery. In comparison, the previous Holmes production at Park Square, The Final Adventure, found Holmes pressed to explain more of his keen discoveries and refreshingly challenged by the charming Irene Adler. In Jersey Lily, Holmes’s loveable sidekick Dr. Watson (Steve Lewis) is missing for a majority of the second half, leaving the audience without a proxy to question Holmes’s mysterious actions.
What the play lacks in intrigue, it more than makes up for in humorous scenes that include Holmes sporting a dress, the eccentrics of playwright Oscar Wilde (Craig Johnson), and hints of flirtation between Langtry and Watson. At one point Wilde comments that life can be awfully miscast; the theater shouldn’t have to be as well. In that respect, this production gets it more right. The small cast of seven talented actors are fully committed to their characters, including the disguises they’re required to take on. Donning a dress, wig, and blush, Hendrickson fully embraces the undercover role of a female actress, speaking in a high-pitched voice and garnering numerous laughs along the way. Also featured are Amanda Whisner as Langtry’s ditzy, deceitful maid and Brian Sostek as Moriarty’s bumbling sidekick.
Three central sets are used in the production: Holmes’s residence, Langrty’s living room, and an abandoned warehouse. Because at least two of the sets were utilized in Park Square’s last Holmes production and Jersey Lily has many parallel plot points, the scenery does little to differentiate the piece from its predecessor. Still, the sets, designed by Rick Polenek, are impressive in Park Square’s space; they are presented ominously on a rotating turntable.
There may be nothing particularly memorable about Jersey Lily, but it’s still a humorous, well-acted night of entertainment. I’ll never know if my fellow theatergoer did indeed find the show to be worth the trek through the rain, but I found myself smiling multiple times throughout the night.