First Folio cast fully embraces the humor in 'Sherlock's Last Case'
"Sherlock's Last Case" -- ★ ★ ★
Sherlock Holmes, over the years, has been portrayed as brash, brilliant and anything but modest. And the talented Kevin McKillip fully embraces the famous fictional sleuth's most insufferable behavior in Charles Marowitz's "Sherlock's Last Case," now in a perfectly cast production at Oak Brook's First Folio Theatre.
McKillip's Holmes makes delightfully clear why someone might want to bump off the great detective -- and not just for the reason spelled out in a letter he receives early in the play.
"Sherlock's Last Case" opens following the death of Holmes' nemesis Professor Moriarity.
Holmes and Dr. Watson (Joe Foust) chat in the detective's drawing room, waited on by housekeeper Mrs. Hudson (Belinda Bremner, a comic delight). She has just received news that her grandfather, an estate caretaker, has died and she asks for time off, a request Holmes callously -- and comically -- deflects by pointing out that "pushing up daisies" could be seen as a mere continuation of the man's life's calling.
Holmes blusters on until he receives a letter signed by Moriarty's son. The letter accuses Holmes of murdering Moriarty and vows revenge. It's followed later by the arrival of a Sherlock Holmes tombstone that sends the detective off on a rant -- more concerned that his age is wrong on the stone than its ominous implications.
Holmes is sure he can handle young Moriarty -- especially after a visit from a beautiful woman (Lydia Hiller) offering her help.
Watson worries, Inspector Lestrade (René Ruelas) gets involved and the tension mounts.
To say more would ruin the play's twists, starting with a first-act surprise that gives the comedy-drama a shot of adrenaline. The early moments of "Sherlock's Last Case" set up the dynamics between the characters, but the overly talky script gets the story off to a slow start.
McKillip and Foust make for a truly engaging Holmes and Watson. McKillip plays off his character's arrogance and mines comedy from every turn. Foust, meanwhile, remains the show's emotional anchor. His put-upon Watson gives Holmes' sidekick more than his usual share of spotlighted moments.
Angela Weber Miller's Victorian set finds a perfect home in the Mayslake Peabody Estate. The crowded bookcases and a skull keepsake speak to Holmes' analytical mind, while the ever-growing pile of teacups, left untouched in Mrs. Hudson's absence, remind us that Holmes would never consider washing one -- if he even knew how.
Director Janice L. Blixt has called "Sherlock's Last Case" a "love letter to 221B Baker Street and to individuals who cherish Sherlock Holmes." And McKillip's Holmes is indeed one to cherish -- even if it's not for the usual reasons.
• • •
Location: First Folio Theatre, Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st St., Oak Brook, (630) 986-8067 or firstfolio.org
Showtimes: 8 p.m. Wednesday, 3 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, extra performance at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3; through Nov. 3
Running time: About 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission