Ken Ludwig has made quite a name for himself as a playwright, and there's almost certain to be one of his shows either being performed on a given weekend in the Orlando area, or in rehearsals. I've seen or been part of several productions of his works, but 'Baskerville' was new to me, and frankly a tad disappointing. Only one portion of that disappointment can be laid at the feet of Melon Patch or the director, Jennifer Mendez. I'll return to that in a bit.
The concept of a Sherlock Holmes farce isn't new - the recent appalling 'Holmes and Watson' movie as an example - and it's rarely done very well. Holmes' humor tended to brief flashes of wit, and slapstick or vaudeville-type humor would have bored him or been beneath notice (in my opinion). So a farcical comedy containing Holmes has an uphill battle with a character that never exhibited any such comedic leaning. Simply, the best possible answer is the 'duck out of water' trope for Sherlock; and THAT wasn't Ludwig's plan here, with Sherlock doing/acting very un-Sherlock-like.
The concept is to take the great 'Hound of the Baskervilles' story and 'yuk' it up. Parts work - away from the original dynamic duo of Holmes and Watson, the rest of this cast does a great job, and with lesser actors it might be a problem. The 5 actors here play more than 40 roles; Watson is *always* Watson, lucky for actor Daniel Roscoe who therefore is allowed to stay in the same costume. Holmes (played by Shelley Whittle) has a few costume changes as, like his literary self, he enjoys wearing disguises on occasion. This leaves the wide majority of those 40+ characters to be played by three actors, and Mendez outdid herself on casting: Tad Kincade, Dustin Lavine and Katy Polimeno throw off accents and costume pieces easily, work off one another with aplomb, and generally seem to have a great and exhausting time on stage. Kincade shuffles between Texas and various English accents well; Polimeno (as she describes in her bio) seems somewhat schizophrenic in how easily she jumps from German to Cockney to east European (Hungarian?) and back again while showing each character as a different person. Lavine is marvelous at physical comedy, and showed his chops with improv and the odd bon mots as well. Their adlibs are usually funnier than the written lines, although for all I know they were scripted...The show works as well as it does because of these three, and Mendez's decision to let them loose and see what happens. Sherlock and Watson, more often than not, must be the straight men for the rest of the characters, and it's when they try to be funny things get choppy.
Here's what I keep dancing around: Whittle is a VERY good actor, with a list of credits as long as my arm. I've only caught him in one other production so far (Tavares Community Theater's 'The Butler Did It' last November, as Marlowe the hard-boiled gumshoe), and he was all but typecast; the role could have been written with him in mind. But Sherlock...not so much. Whittle is also good with physical comedy, and his bug-eyed shock is hilarious - but wouldn't ever appear on Sherlock's face.
In my opinion, Whittle does the best he can but shouldn't have been cast as Holmes. Roscoe does a great job as Watson, but I'd have switched the two actors to keep more in line with how the characters were classically written; Roscoe being taller than Whittle. Having Holmes shorter than Watson was a bit jarring for me - and yes, obviously I like Holmes and am quite familiar with his stories. Would someone who's never read a Holmes' story perhaps not find the height exchange an issue? Quite probably, but it was an issue for me.
(For what it's worth; my SO thinks my concern over actor heights vs. character heights is ridiculous, and strongly disagrees with my assessment here -CI)
Between the original flawed premise and my personal issues with Sherlock's portrayal, I can't help but think that 'Baskerville' is a case of what might have been, perhaps with the humor using a squirting daisy lapel pin rather than a seltzer bottle. That said, much of this is funny (sometimes on purpose!), and kudos to Kincade, Lavine and Polimeno for their energy and on-pitch stagecraft.
Rating: B (A- if you're not a big Sherlock Holmes fan)
(Edited: I erroneously credited The Butler Did It to Moonlight; it was Tavares Community Theater. I've corrected the text; thanks to Shelley Whittle for a) reading the review, and b) letting me know I blew it. :-)