It's no mystery why Annie-Walker Bright ended up directing "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" at Wheaton Drama's Playhouse 111.
Walker-Bright says she's always attracted by comedies -- especially farces -- and "The Final Adventure" was the perfect choice, combining plenty of the expected intrigue and adventure with some humor and romance.
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"'Sherlock Holmes' was the only vehicle this season where I might be able to put my talents to work and perhaps glean a few titters along the way," she says.
The show opened Jan. 25 and continues through Feb. 17 at the playhouse in downtown Wheaton. It's an adaptation by Steven Dietz from the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle, and features many of the favorite Holmes characters as the great detective and Watson accept a case from the King of Bohemia.
Walker-Bright's previous Wheaton Drama directing experience includes such shows as "See How They Run" and "Don't Dress for Dinner." Also seen onstage, her most recent appearances include roles in "Incorruptible" and her personal favorite, "Noises Off."
She says "The Final Adventure" also allows for "stretching of wings."
"The interesting and exciting part of this show is that I have come out of my comfort zone involving very generous sets and decoration and gone totally minimalist," she said.
"This has been a challenge inasmuch as I have really burdened the actors to be dynamic so that the minimalist, cartoon effect on the stage becomes an effective enhancement to the play by not stopping for scene changes and the like -- it is continuous movement."
Her approach creates an exciting challenge for audiences, too.
"My original vision was to minimize the huge array of locations and scene changes, so I have tried a very different approach to my directing," Walker-Bright says. "Sets and set decoration are at a minimum and the audience will have to use their imagination throughout the performance. I have great faith. I know they can do it."
Part of her faith can be attributed to her belief in the crew.
"The crew I have worked with many times, and I believe I have the 'A' team this time," she said. "They are so dedicated and put up with my antics, changes and eccentricities so well."
The "Sherlock Holmes" crew includes: Tracy Adams (makeup design); Ben Aylesworth (special effects and set decoration); Ken Beach (production photography); Alice Blount (properties); Steve Blount (production manager and front of house); Brian Boylan (sound design); Traci A. Cidlik (poster design); Pat Daly (set construction); Craig Gustafson (Starboard design); Melissa Heischberg (website); Dee Hicks (assistant director); Denny and Dolly Jamieson (tickets); Amy Johnson (stage manager); Jo-Ann Ledger (publicity); Steven Merkel (publicity photography); R.J. Ogren (scenic design); Katy Smith (program); Marcia Steinbrecher (costume design); and Jim Van de Velde (lighting design).
As for those bringing the story to life onstage?
"The cast is all new to me, which is unusual," Walker-Bright said. "I have seen a couple of the cast onstage, but have never had direct contact either in acting roles or directing. They roll their eyes at me as I flit on and off the stage and ask for more, more and then some more, but I think they are used to me by now."
The cast features Edward Barnett of Schaumburg; Roy Birch of Carol Stream; Pat Daly of Naperville; Deven Ferber of Lombard as Sherlock Holmes; Amy Johnson of Lombard; Harold LeBoyer of Rolling Meadows as Dr. Watson; Larry Mayo of Wheaton as Professor Moriarty; Karen Neidlinger of St. Charles; Tom Viskocil of Woodridge as the King of Bohemia; and Sharon Voss of Wheaton as Irene Adler.
Walker-Bright says she's not surprised Sherlock Holmes stories still resonate after more than 100 years.
"Oh, it's like C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Dickens," she said, "the stories never let you down, expectations of happy endings always in your mind even though there is treachery afoot, nasty villains lurking around every corner -- and everyone loves a happy ending."
Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays at Playhouse 111, 111 N. Hale St. Tickets are $13 for Thursdays and $16 for weekends. Tickets are available by calling (630) 260-1820 or visiting wheatondrama.org.
Wheaton Drama's season will continue with "Full Circle" March 15 to April 7 and "Into the Woods" May 17 to June 9.