Sherlock's Last Case puts the Baker Street genius in a tight spot - As First Folio's droll and dark production demonstrates, he rather deserves it.
Kerry Reid for The Chicago Reader
Chicago, IL.– The joke goes that someone could win the caption-a-cartoon contest in the New Yorkerevery week by going with "Christ, what an asshole." That sentiment captures the Sherlock Holmes in Charles Marowitz's 1984 play, Sherlock's Last Case, now in a stylish and witty revival at suburban First Folio under Janice L. Blixt's direction. Kevin McKillip's Holmes is an insufferable prat, prone to verbally abusing his Scottish housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson (Belinda Bremner), and casually putting down Dr. Watson (Joe Foust) when he's not making the good doctor stir his stumps (war wound and all) down the stairs to pick up various missives.
A threatening letter arrives from a man purporting to be the son of the late Dr. Moriarty, Holmes's archenemy (who "killed" the detective in 1893, until public outcry forced Arthur Conan Doyle to resurrect him). Holmes's curiosity is piqued—even more so when Moriarty's daughter, Liza (Lydia Hiller), arrives to warn him of her brother's plans.
Various intriguing twists and turns emerge with enough Holmesian in-jokes to satisfy the faithful. But Marowitz's real goal seems to be showing us Holmes as his creator grew to see him. Doyle once mournfully observed, "If I had never touched Holmes, who has tended to obscure my higher work, my position in literature would at the present moment be a more commanding one." McKillip tears into the oblivious-jerk qualities of the detective with gusto, well matched by Foust as a long-suffering sidekick who is also beginning to question his friend's high opinion of himself.
MCKILLIP, FOUST DELIVER BIG IN FIRST FOLIO'S 'SHERLOCK'S LAST CASE'
Ken Payne for Buzz Center Stage
The pairing of Kevin McKillip as Sherlock Holmes and Joe Foust as the sleuth’s ever-loyal sidekick Dr. Watson could not have been any more perfect. The chemistry between the two alone, as audience members are treated to a volley of entertaining banter back and forth throughout, is well-worth the price of admission for First Folio’s latest production ‘Sherlock Holmes Last Case’ at the Mayslake Peabody Estate by Charles Marowitz.
Splendidly directed by Janice L. Blixt, we are taken through a series of twists and turns (some on more comical side) as Sherlock may have met his match once and for all. Mainly set in the impressive study of Sherlock’s home, it doesn’t take long for a mystery to unfold and the wits of a master detective put on display. Sherlock, no stranger to patting himself on the back, is self-assured as always, though his fantastic intelligence is put to the test like never before. Yes indeed, Sherlock is in for the fight of his life.
There is plenty in this story to keep one engaged from one moment to the next thanks to its many cliffhanging moments, its quirky characters and the dynamic performances of it very talented cast. First Folio veteran and Chicago theatre favorite Kevin McKillip is nothing short of sensational as Holmes, grabbing the audience with nearly every line delivered. His precise timing commands laughs when needed and he is able to pull us in deeper to the mystery with a single utterance or glance. First Folio Joe Foust is always a pleasure to watch and his portrayal as Dr. Watson is no different. Foust and McKillip complement each so well in this production, it would be difficult to cast the roles any better. The play also gets a lift from Belinda Bremner who shines as Holmes dependable housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson, as well as Rene Ruelas who plays Inspector Lestrade. Lydia Hiller makes her First Folio stage debut as ‘Liza’ and makes a splash with a very solid performance. Hiller has worked with First Folio in the past where she adapted and wrote lyrics for the theatre company’s production of ‘Shew’d!’
Adding to the thrill of this play is its venue. Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook is the perfect home for ‘Sherlock’s Last Case’; the mansion seemingly coming out of Holmes’ mystery itself. We can easily imagine Holmes and Watson strolling through its vast hallways and perusing the many books in its perfectly-weathered library.
A well-designed set and along with era-perfect costumes successfully takes us back in time to the late 1800’s. This is thanks to Angela Weber Miller (Scenic Design), Rachel Lambert (Costume Design) and a very capable production team.
‘Sherlock’s Last Case’ is a wonderful theatre experience that is sure to absorb all kinds of theatregoers, especially those in search of a good mystery.