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‘Baskerville’ is raucous fun

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Sherlock Holmes is on the case in Arena Stage's production of "Baskerville" as six actors bring the 40 characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles to life in the foggy English countryside.

Playwright Ken Ludwig puts his personal twist on the story with Amanda Dehnert's direction resulting in a raucous, impeccably timed rendition of the 1902 story, the third in Doyle's series.

Sir Charles Baskerville meets his demise in the opening scene to a larger-than-life killer hound believed to be part of a long-standing curse of the Baskervilles. His only relative is a nephew, Henry, who immigrated to America and returns home to claim his inheritance, Baskerville Hall. Michael Glenn is the cowboy-boot-wearing, plain-talking Yankee, who provides comic relief throughout in that role and several others.

Gregory Wooddell is the dashing Sherlock, a little eccentric, very cunning, with a touch of mischief. Wooddell takes command of the role and his scenes, but Watson, played by Lucas Hall, has a more primary role throughout, being more than just Sherlock's straight man.

Stanley Bahorek, among several roles, is the odd neighbor Jack Stapleton, a former schoolmaster turned butterfly collector. Jane Pfitsch, also among other roles, is said to be his sister, Beryl Stapleton. She's aware of the Baskerville curse and anxious to warn strangers.

Mr. and Mrs. Barrymore, the Baskerville servants, are hysterical with Bahorek's quirky physical movements and Pfitsch's odd accent.

Scene-stealing hijinks and moments of dread and intrigue keep the story moving quickly and the audience in stitches.

The 40 roles - from errand boys, to a taxi driver, to the "Man of Mystery," with Milo Tindale, in perhaps the easiest of stage appearances - are a marvel as the actors' costume changes between scenes get quicker and quicker until the pace is so fast they are morphing from one character into another before our eyes.

The staging and props are clever as weighted flowers fall from above to stand in a garden; a hand pops out of a trap door in the stage floor from time to time with a butterfly, or a hat, or a character; a window frame lowers on a pulley as the actors gather to look out on the moors; and a hotel desk clerk appears wearing his desk from suspenders.

"Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery," a family show, will have you laughing as you warm to the sight gags and the characters about 10 minutes into the first act. It runs through Feb. 22.

Augherton can be reached at aaugherton@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015