It’s elementary, my dear: Sherlock Holmes is coming to the University Theatre.
“Sherlock’s Last Case,” opening tonight, is what some would call a “parody play,” wrote playwright Charles Marowitz, who published the work in 1998.
“It’s almost making fun of the whole Holmes universe while at the same time paying homage to it,” said Scott Glasser, guest director. “My favorite part about it is how witty and craftily it's been written.”
Glasser is a nationally renowned director and actor originally from Brooklyn, New York, although he spends much of his time in Omaha, Neb., where he’s frequently been invited to either direct plays or teach. Glasser joined the graduate faculty at the University of Nebraska in 2004 where he later became chair in 2008.
However, The Kansas City Repertory Theatre, the company responsible for producing this summer’s play in conjunction with the University Theatre, invited Glasser to direct not for his teaching history but for his colorful career as both an actor and a director.
“I put on my biographies that I’ve directed 160 plays,” Glasser said. “But I’ve really directed over 180 now. It helps when you’ve lived such a long life.”
Glasser said “Sherlock’s Last Case” is one of his favorites, having directed the show a few times before.
“I don’t normally direct plays more than once,” Glasser said. “If there is a play that I do more than once, it’s because it either did really well or I really liked it. Plus, we’re having a great time here.”
The play itself focuses on Sherlock Holmes as he is contacted and threatened by a new nemesis. This time, instead of Dr. Moriarty antagonizing Holmes, Moriarty’s son plays the villain in an attempt to seek revenge after the late professor’s death.
The tale, Glasser said, is full of twists and turns and written to amuse as well as enthrall. The language of the play attracted Glasser to direct it again, as the production is full of innuendo, double entendre and snarky comebacks.
“It’s very clever,” Glasser said. “It never fails to give me a good laugh.”
While attempting to put together an enjoyable performance for the attendees, the cast and crew have had some fun themselves.
“I really, really enjoy this play,” said Kelly Vogel, visiting professor as well as costume designer and lighting director. “Everyone brings something to it and I love that it’s a small cast, which means that I can really get to know each character and design the perfect outfit for him or her.”
Vogel said she jumped in the second she could, wanting to be a part of the University Theatre this summer as a visiting professor. She’s playing two roles as costume designer and lighting director with this production but said there’s some advantage to having the extra work.
“When I can dictate how the lights will show up on stage, I have the benefit of knowing how to design the costumes to best suit the stage,” Vogel said. “I know exactly what color lighting or what color thread to use to make each character really come alive.”
The costumes have been designed to fit the correct era of the Holmesian universe, set in the late 1800s, with brightly colored gowns and silk pocket squares. However, the costumes aren’t the only piece to the puzzle that are accurate to Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional world.
“The Sherlock Holmes works have such a huge following; there are so many people really dedicated to it,” Glasser said, “so I wanted to make my play as correct as possible. That’s why the crew and I went to London and visited the Holmes’ house.”
The house in question is an accurate display of everything Sherlock Holmes. Located at 221B Baker Street, where Holmes and Watson lived in the book series, the Victorian era house is faithfully preserved to look exactly how it was described in Doyle’s works.
“Even the bathroom is meticulously designed,” Glasser said.
The set has been established as an open stage, letting the audience enter from the back so that they can get a glimpse at the backstage action. Each piece of furniture and decoration has been designed with the Holmes’ house in mind in order to be as accurate as possible to the source material.
Shows start at 7:30 p.m. tonight. The play runs at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, as well as July 30 and Aug. 1, with one matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. this Sunday. Performances will take place at Stage Too! in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre inside Murphy Hall at 1530 Naismith Drive. Tickets prices range from $10 to $15.