‘Sherlock’s Veiled Secret” is the kind of play Off-Broadstreet Theater takes genuine delight in staging for its loyal and receptive audience: a British work, with a relatively unknown author, but with well-known characters, a few surprises along the way, and strong direction and acting. But not this time.
K.C. Brown is not really British, rather a Canadian playwright by way of Seattle and Calgary, with a Yale University degree. She doesn’t really follow the traditions of the Sherlock Holmes legacy, and at two-and-a-half hours, you may well feel that the play runs too long for little result.
I suppose we must spend a bit of time on the plot, such as there is: it seems that Holmes has produced an illegitimate daughter and in an over-long first scene he reveals himself to her (she is named Violet Sheridan,) but when she asks who her mother is, he refuses to tell her. That’s all you really need to know since she spends most of the 150 minutes of the evening trying to figure out who her mom is. By then, of course she doesn’t care much — nor do we. You also need to know that Sherlock Holmes is no longer the astute, clever detective he once apparently was. He is infirm, very old, and clearly in need of a partner. In fact he asks Violet to help him solve a crime.
And by now you realize what the major problem of the evening might well be. Sherlock Holmes really isn’t the hero of this play — it’s the daughter, illegitimate and all. The meaning of the title now becomes evident, but we don’t care much. And neither does the rather experienced cast of seven. There are long stretches of dialogue, little true passion until finally in the closing scenes we get characters who produce revolvers (three in fact), and indeed there is a shot or two, but luckily no bodies to lie around.
It is difficult to judge the acting in such a work. Everybody seems confident. Roberta Curless, in an OBT debut, is a student at Rider pursuing a BFA. Steve Decker, a real veteran, has played Holmes several times before (when the detective was at his full powers). Alisopn Quairoli and Lois Carr (two of the possible mothers) are both veterans of many local productions, likewise Kyla Mostello Donnelly. Kyle Geraghty is a recent graduate of Rider, and David Whiteman is a SAG-AFRTA member who has performed at the Bucks County Playhouse and is the entertainment coordinator for Mad Science of West New Jersey.
No, the concern here is the play itself. Though it has had some success in non-professional groups around the country, it just doesn’t measure up to the high standards expected locally. Perhaps a little paring and director Bob Thick’s magical touch with tinkering will help. Hope so.
Sherlock’s Veiled Secret, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Through Sunday, July 31. $27 to $31.50 includes dessert. Doors open one hour early for desserts and beverages. 609-466-2766 or www.off-broadstreet.com.