Ken Ludwig's Baskerville, by Ken Ludwig. Directed by Phil Rice. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
"Do not argue with me. Go now!"
When a play is as funny as this one you are bound to have a good time. That is indisputable. Ken Ludwig, author of "Lend Me a Tenor," puts his particular comic spin on a classic Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story, "The Hound of the Baskervilles," and without missing a single plot point, without changing or mimicking anything in it, presents a very funny version of the adventure.
At the Theater Barn in New Lebanon, New York the company there shows us just how five people can play forty-five characters and never miss a beat or confuse one accent for another as they present this Doyle work that almost everyone knows by heart by now in a new and very funny fashion. If there's a comedy playing anywhere near you and you don't live in Columbia County, waste no time getting directions and making a reservation for this is one show you shouldn't miss.
Aaron Holbritter, Alec Lee, Liz Woodward, Ryan Palmer; photo: Jade Campbell
Three quarters of the comedy comes from the actors themselves as they change characters, change costumes and wigs and hats, change personalities and sometimes change the rhythm of this show. One of them, Alec Lee, plays the last living Baskerville, the romantic and sympathetic Texan dropped into the British Moors in Devonshire. He has just inherited a position in Parliament, a nice piece of property and all of the accumulated Baskerville wealth with the death of his cousin, the show's opening moment. Upon his arrival in England he is met by the first of the dastardly and confusing people with whom he will be confronted and confounded for the rest of the people whom he must deal for the next two hours.
The older Baskerville has been murdered by the mythic hound that haunts this family due to a witching curse. Asked for help Holmes assigns the case to Watson who accompanies the American to Baskerville Hall and agrees to stay with him.
Lee is wonderful as the new Lord Baskerville and also plays a wide assortment of other characters throughout the play. He is very good with the accents and the body movements that define the other characters, from his goose-stepping servant to Inspector Lestrade. Lee gives it his all.
His equal is Liz Woodward who plays not only the principal female roles, but also slum kids, bumpkins and a voracious Mrs. Hudson who has her psycho-sexual eye on Holmes. She is truly funny as Mrs. Hudson and delightful in her other roles.
The third actor plays a whole host of irregular human beings including doctors, lawyers, butterfly hunters and so much more. Ryan Palmer undertakes these parts that range from villains to maniacs to comic caricatures to surprisingly sympathetic people caught in the web of the dastardly dog-keeper.