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Hilarious ‘Baskerville,’ a comic take on Sherlock Holmes, is on Cape through Sept. 9

Cape Cod Times

A giant hound baying in the moonlight as it roams the desolate moorland of Dartmoor; a lurking escaped convict, and a master detective looking for explanations of what seems a fantastical family curse.

But wait! That’s Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed story, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” What we have at Cape Playhouse, is a clever, hilarious homage/sendup of that Sherlock Holmes classic, starring the master sleuth and his doctor sidekick, along with a few multifarious cast members who play more than 40 additional characters. It’s all executed with super-rapid costume changes, outrageous elocution and accents, making for a captivating and hilarious evening.

Name of show: “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery”

Written by: Ken Ludwig, directed by Brendon Fox, performed at Cape Playhouse.

What it’s about: You don’t need to be a longtime fan of this classic ghostly adventure on the moor to fall right into step with the disguises, clever stage moves and ongoing mayhem, as Holmes (Chris Thorn) and Watson (David Lee Huynh) travel to Dartmoor to try and discover why Sir Henry Baskerville’s male ancestors appear to have been murdered, one by one, attacked by a spectral hound who roams across the moor by night. It’s especially urgent, since Sir Henry is likely to be the next victim. The sleuth and his loyal aide explore the moor and its famous, deadly Grimpen Mire, in a race to discover who, or what, is behind the deadly attacks. They also explore the legend of the giant hound. Is all related to a bizarre, butterfly-collecting neighbor, a taciturn house servant or perhaps a mysterious convict just escaped from prison? All this, and more, contribute to the suspense and fun.

See it or not: Playwright Ludwig has won favor with audiences over time for his comedic plays, with shows such as “Lend Me a Tenor,” “Moon Over Buffalo,” “The Game’s Afoot,” and for his recent, Agatha Christie-approved take on “Murder on the Orient Express.” He’s at his best in “Baskerville” with an amazing cast, adding to his Holmes and Watson characters a complement of three talented actors who inhabit more than 40 different roles during the course of the play. Less is more with clever, minimal sets, as characters fill the stage with their pranks and well-executed chases across the moor. It’s a unique combination of suspense, trickery and high comedy.

Highlights: Take on the game of identifying and counting up the multitude of roles played by Brian Owen, Nisi Sturgis and Jordan Coughtry, who are all astounding as butler, train porter, typist, maid, cab driver and a whole variety of strange countryfolk and odd suspects. As butterfly expert Stapleton, Owen is priceless as he chases his tiny, elusive prey, executing wild grand jetés each time he exits the stage. Each character sports a unique and nutty accent, from cockney to Castilian; note the especially wonderful Scots.

Interesting facts: There’s the cast of five, and there’s the fine direction by Fox, along with amazing costumes, lighting, stage movement and perfectly choreographed sound effects. But this play boasts some unusual additional help as well. There’s a special wig designer (Bobbie Zlotnik), a dialect coach (Thom Jones) and, yes, a fight director (Robb Hunter). All these particular talents are crucial ― and put to excellent use here.

Worth noting: “Baskerville” is the final show of the Cape Playhouse summer run, in what has turned out to be a memorable season of theater. It’s worth noting not only the quality of shows that were chosen, but most especially the diversity and exceptional talent of each show’s cast.

If you go: “Baskerville” is at Cape Playhouse, Route 6A, Dennis Village, through Sept. 9. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with 2 p.m. matinees on Sept. 2, 6 and 7. Tickets: $54.50 to $104.50 including all fees. Call the box office: 508-385-3911, or visit www.capeplayhouse.com

Barbara Clark

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