Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Fallen Souffle
Farcical and well-acted
From the November, 2019 issue
At the start of the current Purple Rose show, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Fallen Soufflé, we find London's greatest detective (played by Mark Colson) contentedly lounging in his spacious Baker Street apartment in the company of his paramour, the witty and elegant Irene Adler (Sarah Kamoo), and his faithful companion and chronicler, Dr. John Watson (Paul Stroili). It's the eve of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, but the only thing happening here is Watson serving a breakfast (kidney beans on toast) to the demanding Irene, who's celebrating her birthday.
The tempo changes fast when esteemed Savoy Hotel chef Auguste Escoffier (Tom Whalen), in white hat and apron, arrives excitedly brandishing a butcher's knife before he falls on the floor in a dead faint. He's followed by Queen Victoria's son, Albert Edward or "Bertie" (David Bendena), his red coat festooned by gold trim, who claims he's being chased by anarchists. "If only I can make it through the day without being assassinated!" he shouts. Madame Marie Chartier (Caitlin Cavannaugh) arrives more quietly, but that sly smile suggests trouble, even before she draws Watson aside and asks for a favor. Isn't he tired, she says, of being "good and reliable Watson, boring, plodding." Help her, she says in her exaggerated French accent, and she promises him the "greatest Sherlock Holmes story ever." He's listening.
The tangle of plotlines becomes more tangled. Madame Chartier is out to get Prince Bertie-and it seems someone has stolen the incredibly valuable Koh-i-Noor diamond. It gets confusing, but clever language and action enliven the action, as Holmes and the prince box, and the women engage in swordplay.
As usual at the Purple Rose, the ensemble acting is excellent, even when not a word is spoken. Holmes knowingly purses his lips; Madame Chartier's face registers emotions by turns playful and sinister. But the scene stealer is Bendena's Prince Bertie, who unloads his angst at being forever a king-in-waiting. When he wails, "I'm a
royal parasite," you feel for him. Sort of.
The woman sitting next to me reflected that the play is more fun when you're familiar with Sherlock Holmes lore. The show is the second in a Holmesian trilogy by writer David MacGregor; the first, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Elusive Ear, was at the Purple Rose last year. If you're looking for farcical, well-acted comedy, this is your escape ticket. And MacGregor sprinkles a few topical references into a story set in England in 1897. A zinger near the play's end asks, "What kind of egomaniac feels they have to name a hotel after him?" At the show I attended, the audience roared.
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