By Ellen Wright of Mary Institute St. Louis Country Day School
The alleged murder of Dr. Watson by Sherlock Holmes, a pair of hopeless would-be inspectors hoping to solve the case, a stolen priceless jewel, a few fake identities and kidnappings and constant twists and surprises (with a crass gypsy thrown into the mix) led to a night of suspense and hilarity for the viewers of Notre Dame’s "Murder at 221B."
The director's search for a play led to the discovery that Mike Flood, the technical adviser, had written a hilarious Sherlock Holmes spin-off titled "Murder at 221B," which she knew was perfect. The play is divided into three acts with one intermission, and is set in 1899 at Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson’s apartment in London.
The two original and clownish characters of Wiggins and Ashbottom are introduced as the main crime-solving pair in place of the famous duo, as it is their goal to prove Holmes’s innocence in the alleged murder of Watson, though their investigating uncovers a much more complicated and villainous plot than they originally imagined.
The performers of "Murder at 221B" kept the show at a consistently high level of energy and made each act raise the suspense until the explosive climax as any good murder-mystery should, yet still added a layer of hilarity the kept the audience in stitches (though at times could become too caught up and talk over one another or go a bit too fast).
The set and costume work was magnificent, high above the level of craftsmanship of an ordinary high school production.
The antics of Mark Messmer and his partner Charlie Moody, who played the adorably ridiculous Wiggins and Ashbottom, made the audience continually giggle and guffaw as they perfectly played a pair of clueless fools, stumbling around hopelessly and dramatically finding “clues.”
Carolina de Legarreta was excellent in the role of Maggie, the easily flustered yet boisterous Irish servant, flitting about the stage in complete hysterics and managing to create a believable accent. Katherine Potts had a commanding presence on stage as Natalia the gypsy, strutting with confidence and delivering saucy quips.
The technical crew for this production deserves a generous amount of applause for the spectacular set, costumes, lighting, and sound that brought the show to life.
The backdrop was an intricate Victorian-style apartment, covered in ornate furniture and small knickknacks that added depth and believability to the show. The costumes were all expertly sewn and accurate depictions of clothing worn during the era, and the lighting and sound was fantastic, with dramatic music, bell tolls, and simulated lightning flashes adding to each scene.
The high energy of the actors and the tech work of Notre Dame’s "Murder at 221B" combined to suck the audience into the incredible drama, action, and hilarity of the play, producing gasps and laughter, and making the night a memorable experience.
This review was submitted by The Cappies, a program that trains high school theater and journalism students as critics. The students then attend shows at other schools, write reviews and publish those reviews in local news outlets. At the end of the year, student critics vote for awards that are presented at a formal Cappies Gala.