The Hound of the Baskervilles at Seattle Rep

The original Sherlock Holmes story of the Baskervilles and their hound by Arthur Conan Doyle is probably the most complex of all his works. Transferring it to the stage creates enormous problems. Not all of them have been overcome in this adaptation by David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright, but Seattle Rep’s production offers astoundingly good stagecraft and fine acting.

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(l to r) Darragh Kennan, Connor Toms, and Basil Harris in Seattle Repertory Theatre’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, 2013. Photo: Chris Bennion.

Through brilliant sets, the audience is transported to London in the late 19th C. and then to the desolate moors in Devon. L.B. Morse, who has designed the set, lighting and projections is the star of this show. A blood red curtain welcomes the audience to the theatre. Surrounding it are walls of brick, and centered above is the diabolical head of a snarling mastiff. When the curtain opens Holmes’ study looks out over the streets of London. Morse’s production team has combed archives for period photos. Projections of them fill the stage behind the walls and furnishings of the interiors of each locale. Each scene is stunning and the transitions are breathtaking.

Director Alison Narver’s cast captures the times and the tension around which the story evolves, though Darragh Kennon, one of Seattle’s finest actors, doesn’t have the gravitas I expect Holmes to have. Perhaps that is unfair criticism. My favorite Holmes is the Basil Rathbone rendition in that 1930s movie shown so often on TV. Kennon’s Holmes is far quieter, far less magisterial. It’s hard to know whether the director or the actor sought that interpretation.

If you don’t already know this story of murder and mischief in the West of England, you might want to read a synopsis before you go. Pichette and Wright have done very well in condensing the complicated plot, but for the uninitiated it might be confusing.

Despite my carps, this is a splendid example of Seattle’s outstanding theatre community. The cast, the production team, the adapters, and the director are all local. We who love theatre are so lucky to live here.

Through Dec. 15, Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle (206 443-2222 or seattlerep.org)

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