Sherlock at the Schacht
TROY – Theatre Institute at Sage is presenting Sherlock Holmes to us and to their student groups that are bussed into the Schacht Fine Arts Center Theatre on the Russell Sage campus in the vehicle “Sherlock Holmes & The Case of the Jersey Lily,” by the American playwright/actor Katie Forgette. Ms. Forgette crafts her original Holmes tale, not to be found in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle canon, around historical figures sharing the stage with the residents from 221 B Baker Street.
Interrupting Holmes & Watson’s domestic idyll in 1895, the celebrated stage actor Mrs. Lillie Langtry arrives in the personage of Francesca Volpe, a Sage graduate and TIS veteran. Holmes is played by the very experienced young local actor Michael Sinkora, who has quickly racked up a solid Capital Region resume with North East Theatre Ensemble and Will Kempe’s Players after graduating from Siena. Dr. Watson is the dashing Avanti Roberts, a Musical Theatre major at Russell Sage.
Ms. Langtry is being blackmailed for the possession of compromising letters she has exchanged with the Prince of Wales, and has gained entrance to the consulting detective’s office by Oscar Wilde, played with joy by David Quinones Jr. who works non-stop in the Capital Region, frequently with Creative Action Unlimited. In the play, Holmes and Wilde are friends and Wilde frequently helps the playwright with title suggestions like “The Importance of Being Forthright” which he is currently working on.
The game’s afoot as Holmes and Watson track down the letters and seek to return Crown Jewels which the Prince gifted Langtry, and run up against some nefarious characters played by Sage students Elizabeth Broderick, Cameron Richardson and, of course, Professor Moriarty played by the always reliable Phil Bruns. Sophomore Zac Ziperstein plays Queen Victoria’s Munshi, Abdul Kareem in another instance of real life bumping up against fiction.
There is a lot of action described and it is to the actors and their director’s great credit that all the expository dialogue was tolerated, for the most part, by the extremely rambunctious Friday morning audience which packed the Schacht. There’s talk and more talk describing action off-stage at Baker Street, Langtry’s, and Moriarty’s on the large serviceable set pieces designed by Jesse White. There are also Wilde’s epigrams, a crowd-pleasing disguise, a sword fight (choreographed by Eleah Jatne Peal) to liven things up, and Lynne Roblin’s consistently magnificent costumes.
Sinkora makes a raffish Holmes and fills the house with his excellent speech, while Quinones positively twinkles and Volpe swans appealingly. There’s a lot to recommend to the Baker Street Irregular crowd in this play and I relished seeing the diverse cast of all levels of experience enjoy the opportunity. But I’m not sure it would hold the same amount of appeal to someone unfamiliar with Holmes, and I wish the play was more exciting.
“Sherlock Holmes & The Case of the Jersey Lily” runs through 2/19 at Schacht Fine Arts Center Theater. Tickets: theatre.sage.edu