Folly and nonsense with the deerstalker detective in Port Dover

So, who is “The Real Sherlock Holmes”?

Fans of the legendary fast-talking sleuth know that he sprang from the fertile imagination of the feisty Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Or did he?

Did the detective deerstalker have a different origin? Did anyone influence Conan Doyle’s penny of all those dark Sherlock mysteries? Did “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “Sherlock’s Last Case” really come out of Conan Doyle’s fertile brain without help?

If you don’t know, you have to go to the Lighthouse Festival Theater in Port Dover. That’s where skinny and lanky actor Jeff Dingle spills the beans, as he trots across the Dover stage in search of adventure and romance.

Dingle, a great Conan Doyle, has just the right sense of style and pace to make this spirited Peter Colley comedy work.

He knows the perfect way to direct the drama, give the comedy a sly twist, and create comedic moments of perfect silliness. Dingle is aided and assisted by actor David Rosser’s brisk and smug Professor Bell.

Together, this pleasant collaboration gives this crazy adventure story a sense of immense fun and great innocence.

Add to the mix the great Hamilton actress Susan JohnstonCollins who gives the haughty and imperious Lady Louisa a perfect touch of sour lemon. JohnstonCollins is capable of mastering a scene when she’s just standing around and artfully dabbing her nose with her ever-handy lace handkerchief. Or better yet, those incredibly arched eyebrows lift in deadly disdain.

These three actors light up the Dover stage and dominate Colley’s game with deliberately elevated acting that keeps their performances lingering in the imagination long after the bad guys are transported to jail and Conan Doyle, not yet Sir, kisses sweet little Jenny (Blythe Hanes ) who gives his crank an American twist.

A great William Chesney set is evocative and imaginative

with its various levels and hidden pop-out surprises, it’s a perfect scenery for the play’s nefarious events.

Plus, Claudine Parker’s lived-in costumes have just the right touch of cheesy to suggest old-fashioned melodrama.

Add in Wendy Lundgren’s atmospheric lighting and you have a sense of mystery.

Mark McGrinder and Allan Cooke, who play an assortment of outrageous characters from a diabolical bagpiper to a One-Eyed Old Salt of the Sea, tend to go over the top somewhere, but my god, they’ll make you laugh .

Nicole Wilson in a series of cameos from a gloomy morgue attendant to a lady with a bad reputation, along with Blythe Haynes as sweet little Jenny, Conan Doyle’s potential squeeze, tend to work a little too hard, but in reality their roles that are not as well developed as Colley’s other more fully developed characters.

Which brings us to playwright Peter Colley who wrote this world premiere especially for The Lighthouse.

Colley is the man who wrote the most performed Canadian play of all time with his gory murder mystery “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight.” This one obviously doesn’t offer the same kind of chills, but Colley has a way of pairing light-hearted comedy with more serious dramatic intentions and “The Real Sherlock Holmes” gets it right, especially in the play’s glorious second act.

Too chatty at first, the first act starts with too many complex set-ups and too much lengthy explanations about things like The Stone of Scone and Scottish history.

Eliminating such redundant information could prune “The Real Sherlock Holmes” by 15 minutes, without hurting anything.

Fortunately, director David Nairn knows how to speed up the play. He never lets his actors languish. His inventive hand is everywhere.

Nairn gives the game physical energy and attack, even when the train bounces, borrowed from the musical ‘The Music Man’, with actors playing a perfect railway rhythm, to a wild storm at sea, with gale-force winds whipping the people on stage . the smallness of the Lighthouse stage tends to restrict movement.

“The Real Sherlock Holmes,” is an enjoyable evening of light, perfectly frivolous entertainment. Expect to see it pop up in regional theaters everywhere and soon.

It sends you out of the theater with a crazy grin on your face. And isn’t folly the perfect antidote to plays that want you to help solve the world’s problems from your theater seat?

Isn’t laughter just what we need in difficult and difficult times? Sure.

As Holmes would say, “It’s elemental, dear Watson.”

The real Sherlock Holmes

WhereLighthouse Festival Theater

247 Main St Port Dover

WhenNow until September 3rd

tickets$15 to $44

Call 1-888-779-7703

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