If you think you’ve seen every possible permutation of the Sherlock Holmes legend, then you haven’t seen “Miss Holmes.”
The play, which opened Friday at the Rochester Repertory Theatre, is an imaginative take by playwright Christopher Walsh, in which Holmes and Watson are women.
Miss Sherlock Holmes is every bit as finicky and brilliant as her male counterpart. And Dr. Dorothy Watson is as bewildered by Holmes’s genius as Dr. John Watson is in the original stories.
It’s a clever take on what is known as the Holmes canon, and the Rep production benefits immensely from the delightful pairing of Rebecca Sands as Holmes and Beth Regener as Watson.
Sands, who continues to be one of the most interesting talents on local stages, portrays Holmes as haughty and headstrong, with nervous ticks and a devious look in her eyes. Regener, who always taps into an inner joy with her onstage roles, appears to savor bringing Watson to life.
They are joined by an all-star cast of local talent assembled by director Mary Pyfferoen: RJ Traff as Mycroft Holmes, Sean Lundberg as the menacing Thomas Chapman, Bill Schnell as a Scotland Yard inspector, Lisa Modry as the seemingly innocent Lizzie Chapman, John McDougall as superintendent of an asylum, Rich Dietman as Greener and Cheryl Frarck as ancient Eudora Featherstone.
Standing out among the several newcomers are Lucas Simonson, required to spit out sloppy German as Dr. Stamford, and Raquel Hellman as Dr. Anderson.
It’s meant to be fun, but there are also some well-placed messages about the strengths and abilities of women. Meanwhile, the costumes by Cara Edwards are outstanding.
We found the staccato nature of the play, with numerous short scenes, nearly all of them separated by movement of props and furniture, to be disruptive. The longer scenes, allowing the actors to settle into their characters, were better played. Along with that it was occasionally difficult to hear the lines spoken by voices that were either too quiet, rushed or muffled.
As for the plot, it seemed overly developed and too long, when all this play needs is a simple focus on the interplay between Holmes and Watson.
O.K., so “Miss Holmes” is not the best twist on Holmes. But it is creative, and in the hands of this cast, especially Sands and Regener, it’s a fun start to the Rep’s new season.
–Tom Weber, Post-Bulletin October 7, 2019