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‘Hamilton’ alums catch Sherlock Holmes in ‘Mysterious’ new play at Geffen Playhouse

Daveed Diggs and Emmy Raver-Lampman (Photo by Jordan Strauss)
Original “Hamilton” cast members Daveed Diggs and Emmy Raver-Lampman
(Jordan Strauss)

There was no shortage of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts on opening night of the new play “Mysterious Circumstances” at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.

Take Daveed Diggs, the Tony Award winner who starred in the original Broadway cast of the musical “Hamilton,” for example. Before catching Wednesday’s performance, he said he has read and seen virtually everything involving the legendary detective.

“This play is right in my wheelhouse,” said Diggs, attending with Emmy Raver-Lampman, who played Angelica Schuyler in the 11-time Tony-winning show’s Broadway and Los Angeles productions.

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The event

Director and Geffen Playhouse Artistic Director Matt Shakman, John Bobek, Helen Sadler, Hugo Armstro
From left, “Mysterious Circumstances” director and Geffen Playhouse artistic director Matt Shakman, Helen Sadler, John Bobek, Ramiz Monsef, Alan Tudyk, Hugo Armstrong, Leo Marks, Austin Durant and Geffen Playhouse executive director Gil Cates Jr.
(Jordan Strauss)

The Geffen Playhouse presented the world premiere of “Mysterious Circumstances,” which was inspired by a New Yorker article by David Grann entitled “Mysterious Circumstances,” with the sub-headline “The strange death of a Sherlock Holmes fanatic.”

Following a standing ovation at the play’s close, the cast joined friends, donors and other VIPs for a buffet supper at STK steakhouse in the W Los Angeles hotel.

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The play

“Mysterious Circumstances” tells the real-life story of Richard Lancelyn Green — the world’s foremost authority on Sherlock Holmes — as he searches for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s rumored treasure trove of unpublished papers.

However, following his 20-year quest, Green is found dead — whether by murder or suicide remains a mystery.

The crowd

Playwright Michael Mitnick, director Matt Shakman, Geffen executive director, Gil Cates Jr. and cast members Alan Tudyk, John Bobek, Hugo Armstrong, Austin Durant, Leo Marks, Ramiz Monsef and Helen Sadler mingled among the estimated 250 to 300 guests.

Julian Sands and guest (Photo by Jordan Strauss)
Julian Sands and a guest
(Jordan Strauss)

The scene

The crowd sipped cocktails or piled their plates with chicken, salmon, salad and broccolini. Inside the restaurant or spilling onto the outdoor patio, conversations at times turned to Holmes, police work and the pursuit of one’s passions.

The quotes

Playwright Michael Mitnick and his father (Photo by Jordan Strauss)
Playwright Michael Mitnick, left, and his father, Barry Mitnick
(Jordan Strauss)

“My father was an extreme Sherlock Holmes fan,” Mitnick said. “I was always told to stay out of his office. So of course when he wasn’t home, I’d sneak in. It was full of the most boring books in the world except for 150 books about Sherlock Holmes. So, as a 5-year-old, I’d take a pipe, put on a hat and read.

“[Conan Doyle] didn’t see the value in his stories,” the playwright said. “He wanted to be remembered as an important author, but what he didn’t quite realize was that his fun stories were important to the life of everyone. There were very few detective stories then. People didn’t understand how the world worked. There was no electricity. People believed in magic. You’d go and visit someone to talk to deceased relatives. Then suddenly there’s this character … who clarified things and made people say, ‘This is the way you should view the world.’”

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“This has been a labor of love for many years,” Shakman said, adding that he joined the Geffen as artistic director in part because he wanted to bring the story to life. “Sherlock Holmes has always been part of my life, but ultimately the story is about obsession and about love. It’s the story of someone who fell in love with Sherlock Holmes when he was young and then lived his entire life up to his death in love with Sherlock Holmes.”

Alan Tudyk (Photo by Jordan Strauss)
Alan Tudyk
(Jordan Strauss)

Tudyk said jokingly that because he appears onstage in nearly every scene either as Green or Holmes, “I do notice I have to eat a lot more food lately.” He called the research for the project fun “because I could watch the BBC television shows that Richard Lancelyn Green loved, the old low-rent productions where the wall would shake when someone tried the door.

“The beauty of the play is in the ‘Who done it?’ of it all. It’s the mystery that wins out and it’s the mystery that Richard Lancelyn Green was in love with.”

Then he said, “It’s really great to get to stand on stage and say, ‘I lived a marvelous life because I found my joy,’ and if you’re an actor or if you’re an artist and you follow what you want, you have a lot to identify with.”

According to Cates Jr., the Geffen has stepped up its mission to present world premieres by “telling stories that are fresh and relevant to what’s going on today.” He said the 2019/20 season will bring the world premiere of “Revenge Song: A Vampire Cowboys Creation”; a world premiere adaptation of “Key Largo” with Andy Garcia; and the world premiere of “Nightfall,” a co-production with Audible.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

‘Mysterious Circumstances’

Where: Gil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles

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When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday; ends July 14

Tickets: $30-$120

Info: (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.org

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