THEATER REVIEW: “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” @ Rubber City Theatre by Lisa DeBenedictis

Through Sun 11/10

Dane CT Leasure adroitly directs Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, now onstage at Rubber City Theatre.

This delightful confection walks a directorial tightrope between ardent tribute to Sherlock Holmes’s creator Sir  Conan Doyle’s suspenseful source material (Doyle wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories that feature Holmes) and drawing-room comedy. Mr. Leasure is fortunate to orchestrate an extremely accomplished cast and crew at Rubber City’s new location in Akron’s Northside development,  which boasts an intimate and welcoming thrust theater.

The play is based on Doyle’s last Sherlock Holmes story. It opens with the shocking newspaper announcement of Holmes’ death. Dr. Watson, Holmes’s trusty colleague and loyal friend, tells the story of the famous detective’s last adventure with a Rashomon effect.

Alex Funk plays a droll and compelling Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson is portrayed with quick-witted and clever mastery by Brian O. Jackson as the perfect buddy comedy duo. They lead the enthralled audience down a trail of suspense and apprehension, from the opening where Sherlock Holmes plots his escape from his archenemy and nemesis, the nefariousness Professor Moriarty (portrayed with cunning duplicity and mellifluent suaveness by Scott Crim).

As the duo plot their escape from London, the King of Bohemia requires their immediate help as he is seemingly blackmailed by his former lover, the opera singer Irene Adler. The audience and Holmes soon realize Moriarty and his henchman — one of whom is Adler’s husband and another of whom is her maid — are behind this, and Holmes must walk right into this trap in order to solve his final mystery.

The King of Bohemia is portrayed with amusing skill by Jack Douglas Riter who is still infatuated with Irene Adler (Anna Popa). She is so prepossessing that she is simultaneously desired by a conman who becomes her husband James Larrabee (Christian Achkar) and Holmes.

Lauren Koleszar sizzles as Madge Larrabee, beguiling as both James’s sister and maid. She and Spencer Morgan as Sid Prince stand out in small roles and steal each scene they appear in.

This impressive production is perfect family theater, appealing to a Halloween-psyched audience comprising young children accompanied by grandmothers, as well as those seeking date-night entertainment. It’s masterfully produced with skillful stage crafting and suspenseful spectacle.

With the erudite help of Jonathon Hunter and Brian Seckfort’s expert lighting and scenic design and Hazen Tobar’s ingenious sound design, Mr. Leasure has created an imaginative, sophisticated, and suspenseful live theater event — no small feat in this age of high-expectation Disneyfied entertainment. The cast is aided tremendously by Kelsey Tomlinson and Katie Wells illustrious costume design which manages to elucidate each character’s personality with whimsy and murkiness.

[Written by Lisa DeBenedictis]

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