Sherlock Holmes. Revered by readers for more than 100 years, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s super sleuth has always been larger than life. In the College of Central Florida’s (CF) production of “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” the detective gets a stage worthy of his legendary status.
From the moment you walk into the theater, you are in Baskerville Hall. There’s no curtain on this set, just the vast expanse of the mansion on the moor. Set designer Tyler Stentiford’s grand Victorian manse takes up every corner of the stage, extending into the wings. And CF Theatre veteran Collin Williams owns that stage as the sleuthhound who always cracks the case.
“The difficulty with playing Sherlock Holmes is the fact that Sherlock Holmes is one of the greatest mysteries in Sherlock Holmes,” said Williams, who is playing his first lead role. “What we see, what he does, is just a fraction of what he thinks, and it’s just a production of the long process in his head. To find a unique twist to him is very tricky, to say the least.”
Of course, the detective could not solve the mystery without his sidekick, Dr. Watson, played by Wes Jones. The nontraditional college student is closer in age to his character than to his castmates, whom he called “consummate experts at what they do” who have made him feel “totally accepted.”
“Everyone’s familiar with these characters, but this is actually an adaptation that’s slightly different than the original story,” Jones revealed. “So for those who are familiar with the story as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, they’re going to find some twists in the play.”
Jones, who said he’s done a number of theater productions, is making his debut at CF. He said he’s enjoying the challenge of bringing the surgeon-turned-sleuth to life and hopes to give the audience the Dr. Watson they “expected to see.”
A Victorian period piece set in 1890s Northern England, with 10 characters who have accents ranging from Holmes’ and Watson’s proper London speech to other characters with regional dialects, is a bit out of her students’ comfort zone, said Nonalee Davis, CF assistant professor of theater and the play’s director. But she’s certain they are up for the challenge.
“It’s the first time our students, under my direction, have gone out of America,” Davis said. “Getting them to challenge themselves in a different time period is always fun.”
Davis’ favorite holiday is Halloween, and although she considered other classics, she selected what she thinks is “the most entertaining Sherlock Holmes mystery” to help the community get into the spirit of the spooky season.
“You get the mystery. You get the creep. It has several supernatural characteristics,” she said. “And you’re going to be super surprised at whodunit!”
In addition to Holmes and Watson, the cast includes five women and three men in roles as sinister servants, ladies in distress, escaped convicts and even a butterfly collector—and everyone is a suspect. Who wrote the letter that summoned the diabolical hound? Is Sir Henry doomed to succumb to the family curse of death at the fangs of the horror that prowls the moor?
With its themes of murder and scary sound effects, CF recommends this show for those 13 and older.
“The Hound of the Baskervilles” is live on stage Oct. 26-29 at the CF Dassance Fine Arts Center, 3001 SW College Road. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are available online at cf.universitytickets.com or by calling (352) 873-5810.