CLEVELAND — “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” is a lean, focused, fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping thriller.
Don’t read the above with a magnifying glass; I intend no deceptions.
Steven Ditz’s play about perhaps the world’s greatest detective is on-stage at the Cleveland Play House through Nov. 4.
“The Final Adventure” sounds like a single work, but it is actually based on three of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s serialized stories: “A Scandal in Bohemia,” “The Final Problem” and “The Adventures of the Empty House.”
Ditz combines the tales of opera Diva Irene Adler, Holmes’ archrival Professor Moriarty and the King of Bohemia in a faithful adaptation.
The play begins with “The Final Problem,” in which Holmes sets out to once and for all put an end to the cunning Moriarty. After a while, it suddenly shifts to “A Scandal in Bohemia,” in which the country’s king seeks the sleuth’s help in tracking down a photograph of the king and Adler together. She intends to use it against the king, who broke up with her, by showing it to the father of the woman he now intends to marry.
At first, I found myself wondering why the playwright decided to combine these stories into one play; what does one story have to do with another? Watch a little longer, though, and you’ll discover Ditz combines the seemingly unrelated stories together in a way that doesn’t feel forced.
It actually makes the already villainous Moriarty more conniving and vicious; in a diabolical plot, he sets out to kill not only Holmes, but Adler as well.
The King of Bohemia’s quest to secure the uncompromising photograph fits into the mix as well. Moriarty has learned the king asked for Holmes’ help in tracking down the picture. So, the professor uses his henchmen in a plot to kill Holmes and Adler and walk away with a hefty sum of money through an act of extortion. That leaves it up to Holmes to foil the plot by securing the elusive photograph for the king, who can hide it away from his bride.
Ditz’s adaptation of the stories keeps us on edge: Plot twist after plot twist reminds us not to overlook any character, no matter how innocuous he or she may seem. It is very likely that person is integral to Moriarty’s scheme.
Any story with a likable hero and a hateful villain is likely to grab and keep our attention.
Sherlock Holmes stories and this play adaptation do both.
The detective has won many over not because he’s friendly; he has a dry personality, in fact. We admire him because of his genius ability to reason and make deductions.
Actor Christian Kohn deftly conveys Holmes’ formality and intensity. Kohn’s performance has almost a robotic quality, as though he were programmed with the correct answers to problems.
Timothy Crowe’s intense eyes, sharp, commanding tone and deliberate movement work well in his portrayal of the cunning Moriarty: They make us hate the character. Crowe’s Moriarty mercilessly mocks Holmes, and there’s palpable tension between the two.
Krista Hoeppner makes a proud, seductive Irene Adler, Remi Sandri’s Bohemian king coveys authentic desperation and Nick Berg Barnes creates a thoroughly loyal Dr. Watson, Holmes’ sidekick.
Director Tim Ocel’s staging highlights the key characters and he keeps the pace frantic, as any suspenseful thriller should be. Foreboding music heightens the tension.
Tension reaches its highest at the end and quickly turns to heartache.
Thankfully, Holmes is a fictional character, and can be reincarnated at any point.
WHAT: “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. There is a 7 p.m. performance Tuesday.
WHERE: The Cleveland Play House, 8500 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
HOW MUCH: Single tickets start at $10. Call (216) 795-7000. For groups of 10 or more, call (216) 795-7000.