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'Baskerville' by Ken Ludwig

Presented by Gananoque's 1000 Islands Playhouse at the Springer Stage

Presented by Gananoque's 1000 Islands Playhouse at the Springer Stage

Joe Szekeres

(Photo Credit: JPG Photography. L-R: Jamie Cavanagh and Colin Doyle)

This ‘Baskerville’ is a tickle-the-funny bone sleuthing mystery.

The story takes place in Victorian England and revolves around the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville, a wealthy landowner in Devonshire. Sherlock Holmes (Jamie Cavanagh) and Dr. Watson (Colin Doyle) are called upon to solve the case. Sir Henry Baskerville, the heir to the estate, enters Holmes’s office to seek his help. Holmes instructs Watson and Sir Henry to proceed to the estate to claim the inheritance and investigate the murder. As they investigate, they come across a theory that a dangerous bloodhound is responsible for the crime and is still at large in the moors.

Along the way to solving the mystery, there are nearly 40 characters whom Holmes and Watson meet all played by Cydney Penner, Karl Ang, and Tim Walker.

The mystery is eventually solved but not without many, many laughs along the way.

‘Baskerville’ recalls Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The 39 Steps’. In both plays, actors take on multiple roles and there are elements of farce and slapstick humour that can be highly effective if executed properly but can also fall flat if not done well.

There’s no concern about that at the performance I saw.

What an apt choice to open the 41st season of Gananoque’s Thousand Islands Playhouse.

The set design by John Dinning is truly impressive. I couldn't help but appreciate how well the Springer stage is utilized to its fullest. The faux stones and brick were so realistic that I had to touch them during intermission to see what material was used. An usher came by due to my actions, and I apologized for my curiosity while acknowledging her dutiful presence. Moreover, a motorized travellator, like a moving sidewalk, helped to move set pieces on and off. It seemed a bit sluggish at the beginning of the play, but it soon became clear just how effective it is. In feature films, scenes often slowly fade from one to the next. A travellator allows the same effect to be achieved on stage.

Dinning’s costume designs accurately reflect the Victorian era. One example is the dresses worn by Cydney Penner in her various roles, from a lady to a maid. The cap and cloak worn by Holmes appear authentic, as do Watson's dark and earth tone suits which fit him perfectly. Kevin Tanner's use of shadowy lighting creates an eerie atmosphere of the house on the moors, and Steve Marsh has chosen appropriate orchestral music from the period to open both Acts One and Two.

Directed by Brett Christopher, ‘Baskerville’ becomes a delightful display of just plain ol’ good-fashioned fun. Such performances of Sherlock Holmes stories are rare. One of the most important things that theatre can offer is the chance to be intrigued, and this play certainly delivers. Christopher's Director's Note reveals that he aims to take it one step further by ensuring that audiences are wildly entertained by the exceptional comedic acting ensemble, as fine as any in the country.

He certainly delivers on his promise.

Although the first act took some time to set up the mystery and events (with the odd joke thrown in) it was necessary for the plot to unfold.

But when the magic of the comedy takes off as it does in the second act…

The production works.

There are many terrific moments that Christopher thankfully never allows to deviate out of control. The actors play the moment for real even though the context appears outlandish. In playing the contextual setting for real, the pacing must remain at lightning speed but delivers humour.

That consistently happens throughout the second act, and the ensemble is to be commended for its due diligence.

During the performance I attended, there were some unexpected on-stage moments that may or may not have been intentional. For instance, Karl Ang's mustache was slightly lopsided and started to come off and flutter as he spoke, which caused the audience to laugh. However, Ang remained unfazed by the mishap. Similarly, Tim Walker's mustache fell off while he was speaking in the second act, which also caused laughter from the audience, but he carried on professionally without letting it faze him.

Did I care about these gaffes that sometimes happen in live theatre?

Of course not! They’re all part of the excitement of watching ‘Baskerville’ live. It reminds me of ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ where the actors would continue despite their gaffes. During the second act, I witnessed some on-stage improvisation to quickly adjust a costume change, which was entertaining. The cast's ability to think on their feet and keep up with the pace was truly admirable.

Kudos to the remarkable talent of Cydney Penner, Tim Walker, and Karl Ang for their seamless ability to shift between various characters. Penner's Madeline Khanish Barrymore from 'Blazing Saddles' is ridiculously comic. Karl Ang's Texan 'Sir Charles' continues to be a hoot. Meanwhile, Tim Walker's portrayal of Barrymore, which closely resembles Max, Norma Desmond's servant in 'Sunset Blvd.', is hilarious.

Colin Doyle and Jamie Cavanagh are the steady anchors amidst the chaotic fun happening around them. Their confident performances exude a charming literary appeal that brings the fictional characters to life on stage. But they too find their moments to poke fun. Doyle does this when he breaks the fourth wall and tells Designer Steve Marsh: “Enough” for a sound effect. Cavanagh’s holding of a hat in the air in the second act while mayhem erupts around him is priceless.

Final Comments: Once again, in his Director’s Note, Brett Christopher writes this production of ‘Baskerville’ pushes the boundary between the audience and the art.

I really admire directors and theatre companies who will push the boundary between the audience and the art. In this production, the breaking of the fourth wall does that but it’s not excessive and overdone.

And that’s a good thing.

Another good thing?

Go see ‘Baskerville’. It’s a terrific afternoon or evening at the theatre.

Running Time: approximately two hours with one intermission.

‘Baskerville’ runs until June 24 in the Springer Theatre of The Thousand Islands Playhouse, 185 South Street, Gananoque. For tickets, call the Box Office at 613-382-7020 or visit


Director: Brett Christopher
Set and Costume Designer: John Dinning
Lighting Designer: Kevin Tanner
Sound Designer and Composer: Steve Marsh
Stage Manager: Rebecca Eamon Campbell

Performers: Jamie Cavanagh as Sherlock Holmes; Colin Doyle as Dr. Watson; Tim Walker as Actor 1; Cydney Penner as Actor Two; Karl Ang as Actor Three.

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