The game is afoot at Orange Coast College where a large and enthusiastic cast is bringing history's most famous detective back to center stage with a generous helping of comedic melodrama.
"Sherlock Holmes," created in 1899 by Arthur Conan Doyle and recreated innumerable times since — this latest incarnation by playwright Tim Kelly appeared in the 1970s — is an imaginative and entertaining adaptation with some interesting and engaging characters beyond the principal few.
Director Alex Golson has populated the Drama Lab stage with various denizens of Victorian England, some of which (Julia Lee Crawfis' Gashouse Gertie) are downright horrific. They're a fun bunch, joining in the spirit of the occasion with zest and enthusiasm.
Gleaned by Kelly and others from various Doyle short stories, this "Sherlock Holmes" leans more to the satirical than the sleuthful. Golson's production is bolstered by an equally inventive setting by David Scaglione featuring facade flats which are moved to and fro by the actors when necessary.
In the title role — with the obligatory magnifying glass, deerstalker hat, Meerschaum pipe and violin as props — Chris Arnold strikes an unflappable figure with an air of astounding intellectual superiority. Lean and well-coiffed, he's practically a ringer for Robert Downey Jr., who starred in the most recent cinematic adventure, with Raymond Mau quite convincing as his astounded assistant, Dr. Watson.
Nathan Stanton's Professor Moriarty, the self-styled "Napoleon of Crime," reflects pure evil in an avuncular manner. Nevertheless, more attention is drawn to his near-wordless assistant, the dominatrix Joan, nicely interpreted by Lauren Hamilton.
Emmalyn Jouglet is convincing as the proverbial damsel in distress, with Jared Deiro and Nina Sharifi suitably wicked as the conspirators seeking her valuable letters. David Patrick Miles contributes some Cockney villainy as a showy safecracker.
Leading a troupe of faux women's suffrage campaigners, actually a band of Faginesque pickpockets, is Laureen Marie Buangan in a strong performance. Katelyn Sonetti and Wesley Espinosa drop by as a pair of stuffy Bulgarian royals, while Allie Smith keeps the household at 221-B Baker St. running smoothly as landlady Mrs. Hudson.
Jeremy Alvarez pops in and out as the clueless Inspector Lestrade. Brooke Billingsley appears as a future client, Maggie Baskerville, who has trouble with some hounds, and an enthusiastic ensemble of cops, suffragettes and assorted street people keeps up the vintage atmosphere.
Cynthia Corley's old English costumes project the period beautifully, with Rick Golson's lighting effects equally effective.
"Sherlock Holmes" is a historical joy ride for both actors and audience, and imagination flows freely in this enjoyable example of melodrama and mayhem at Orange Coast College.
TOM TITUS covers the local theater scene for the Daily Pilot.
If You Go
What: "Sherlock Holmes"
Where: The Drama Lab, Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa.
Where: Closing performances at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Cost: $10 and $6 in advance, $12 and $8 at the door
Call: (714) 432-5880 or http://www.occtickets.com