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THEATER REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club at Long Beach Playhouse

From+left%3A+Rick+Reischman+%28Mycroft+Holmes%29+and+Tim+Thorn+%28Sherlock+Holmes%29+in+Long+Beach+Playhouse%E2%80%99s+Sherlock+Holmes+and+the+Adventure+of+the+Suicide+Club.
From left: Rick Reischman (Mycroft Holmes) and Tim Thorn (Sherlock Holmes) in Long Beach Playhouse’s Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club.

From left: Rick Reischman (Mycroft Holmes) and Tim Thorn (Sherlock Holmes) in Long Beach Playhouse’s Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club.

Photo by Michael Hardy Photography

Photo by Michael Hardy Photography

From left: Rick Reischman (Mycroft Holmes) and Tim Thorn (Sherlock Holmes) in Long Beach Playhouse’s Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club.

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If you like thrillers, you are in for a treat with Long Beach Playhouse’s (LBPH) Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club. Written by Jeffrey Hatcher and adeptly directed by LBPH veteran Mitchell Nunn, the play combines an elegant mystery with eloquent wordplay, all brought to life by expert acting.

One part send-up and three parts serious Sherlock Holmes adventure, the play involves many of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original characters, including narrator and Holmes’s sidekick, Dr. John Watson (Peter Stone), who sets the stage for the intrigue about to unfold.

We are soon treated to Holmes (Tim Thorn) correctly guessing Watson’s recent activities based on his minute observations of the latter’s appearance and preternaturally accurate deductions. Such scenes recur a few times, adding delightful humor to the otherwise serious plot.

The story turns on Holmes’s participation in a club that allows upstanding but despondent men to respectably achieve their suicidal purposes by being assassinated by other club members. It’s not murder, but rather “suicide by second party,” as one member describes it.

The club’s secret meetings are run by a woman (a well-cast Terra Taylor Knudsen) who dramatically orchestrates the choice of who dies that night and who assists, using an intricate system of differently colored billiard balls.

But is there something else going on beneath the civilized veneer of the club? Holmes must sleuth out the truth, an especially complicated task given the international array of characters and political conspiracies of 1914 Europe on the brink of World War I.

This compelling story is made all the more entertaining by excellent acting. Tim Thorn impressively immerses himself in the Holmes character, from his crisp dialogue to his every facial expression, right down to eye movements as he tracks each suspect. Peter Stone as Watson is equally engaging and fully believable as Holmes’s astute and well-meaning assistant, who sometimes gets things wrong, but for the right reason.

Rick Reischman as Holmes’s brother, the politically connected Mycroft, also does not disappoint, nor does Henry Weaver as the wheelchair-bound Mr. Henry, nor John Russell, who plays a German club member and a British inspector equally well, nor, really, any of them! There are no weak links, even with a few actors playing multiple roles.

The stage is set efficiently, though it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between Holmes’s Baker Street apartment and the Russian Prince Starloff’s (Cruz Flores) fancy hotel room, but hanging backdrops of London, along with gunshots, fog, transitional music and lighting effects, enhance the story well. Costumes by LBPH designer Donna Fritsche are exceptional, as always, especially some of the sharply tailored suits for Holmes and Watson.

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club thus makes for a superb theater experience. With a cast of very professional actors in director Nunn’s capable hands, this well-paced play is pleasurable both for its sophisticated story and sympathetic treatment of characters. The only logical conclusion– which must be the truth– is that this Holmes adventure is not to be missed.

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club continues at the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre, 5021 E. Anaheim St., through Oct. 20, with shows Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $20 to $24. For tickets and information, call the box office at (562) 494-1014 or visit lbplayhouse.org.

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THEATER REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club at Long Beach Playhouse