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On Theater: The game’s afoot with ‘Sherlock’ in Newport

Sherlock Holmes the Final Adventure
Floyd Harden (Sherlock Holmes) and Elizabeth Schembre (Irene Adler) in Newport Theatre Arts Center’s “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure,” which is playing in Newport Beach through Dec. 15.
(Courtesy of Newport Theatre Arts Center)

When any theater produces a play involving Sherlock Holmes, audiences are well aware that emotional extremes — cool, unflappable deduction and histrionic melodrama — are to be expected.

These conditions are well in evidence at the Newport Theatre Arts Center: the forces of good and evil collide with considerable flourish in Stephen Dietz’s “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.”

Dietz compiled his “Final Adventure” from an 1899 adaptation by William Gillette and a pair of short stories by Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s a rough but effective fit on the Newport stage, where director Brian Page has elicited high-velocity performances and taken a key supporting role himself.

In this rendition, two familiar characters from the Holmsian universe appear: femme fatale Irene Adler and the dastardly “Napoleon of crime” Professor Moriarty. Sherlock’s buddy, Dr. Watson, is present, of course, but Scotland Yard inspector Lestrade sits this one out.

“Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure”
Rick Reischman (Dr. Watson) and Floyd Harden (Sherlock Holmes) in Newport Theatre Arts Center’s 2019 production of “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.”
(Courtesy of Newport Theatre Arts Center)
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The master detective is portrayed with dogged determination and steely logic by Floyd Harden, who deftly underplays his assignment in sharp contrast to the visceral madness erupting around him. His chilly demeanor masks the lone emotional crack in his armor, which is explored in the Newport production.

Rick Reischman is even more effective as Watson, who both performs and narrates the story. His character is the heart of the drama, and he plays it with a flummoxed dexterity.

The juicy role of the villainous Moriarty is a theatrical feast for Jason Cook who delivers a deliciously evil interpretation. Elizabeth Schembre is captivating as Irene Adler, the mystery woman whose allegiance is constantly in question.

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Page functions well as the flustered king of Bohemia who sets the intricate tale in motion. Steve Saatjian ably enacts Moriarty’s scheming accomplice.

“Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure”
Jason Cook (Professor Moriarty) and Floyd Harden (Sherlock Holmes) in the Newport Theatre Arts Center’s production of “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure,” playing in Newport Beach through Dec. 15.
(Photo courtesy of Newport Theatre Arts Center)

Other shady figures are a Cockney thug well depicted by Sheridan Ward and a female co-conspirator actively enacted by Sara-Jane Finch. Eric Nester rounds out the cast in a variety of cameo assignments.

The action plays out on a nearly bare stage, backed by large atmospheric video projections. Page handles the eerie sound effects while Jackson Halphide has designed the intricate lighting plot.

For devotees of the Sherlock Holmes adventures, this one should be particularly enjoyable. The game is afoot at the Newport Theatre Arts Center.

IF YOU GO

What: “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure”

Where: Newport Theatre Arts Center, 2501 Cliff Drive, Newport Beach

When: Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. until Dec. 15

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Cost: $20

Information: (949) 631-0288; ntaconline.com

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