May 30, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

A Baffling “Mysterious Circumstances”

Instead of a “Who done it,” this production of “Mysterious Circumstances,” could be subtitled “Who is it?” My reason? To be revealed in time, so read on.

Matt Shakman’s staging of Michael Mitnick’s play, which was inspired by David Grann’s article published in The New Yorker entitled: “Mysterious Circumstances: The Strange Death of a Sherlock Holmes Fanatic,” is technically quite extraordinary, beginning with a top of the line inventive set design by Brett J. Banakis. With excellent lighting by Elizabeth Harper, E. B. Brooks’ period costume design, and Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason H. Thompson’s projections, the production is quite delicious to watch with the overall look clearly Broadway caliber. 

Apparently based on true events occurring in 1894 and 2004, a writer by the name of Richard Lancelyn Green, well played by Alan Tudyk, who also plays Sherlock Holmes, is totally obsessed with all things Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, characterized by the talented Austin Durant. Doyle, of course, created, one of the most famous literary characters of all time. Green is doing research on a book covering the life and times of Doyle, detailing the circumstances under which this incredibly successful author lived. He is determined to hunt down a box that is rumored to contain letters written to Holmes by fans seeking all sorts of advice as well the scribe’s original writings, and other memorabilia. But be forewarned. Something is afoot as poor Mr. Green becomes the target of an assassination for reasons that still remain a mystery. Hence, the title “Mysterious Circumstances.” 

Alan Tudyk also plays the famous super sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

As a result of Doyle’s series of books, Sherlock Holmes becomes bigger than life, with rumors circulating that the character might actually be a real person. Fan clubs sprouted up, one of which was called “The “Sherlockers.” Tired of all things Holmes, Doyle decides to kill him off by having him go over a waterfall in the northern Swiss Alps. A hue and cry springs up with people demanding that the super sleuth be brought back to life. Even the Prince of Wales writes a letter asking that this famous detective be resurrected. There is a candle-lit scene wherein Doyle systematically burns a bunch of papers which we are to assume are from the next installment where Holmes is dead. Where is the box you might ask? It is in safekeeping with his aging, wheelchair-bound daughter Dame Jean, beautifully played by Helen Sadler who, like the rest of the cast, plays multiple roles. In my opinion, she is the only member of the cast who endowed her different characters with specific physical and vocal characteristics that set each one apart from the other. Now, what would Holmes be without his ever-devoted sidekick Watson, played by Ramiz Monsef, who also plays multiple roles. The other cast members playing different characters include Hugo Armstrong as The American, John Bobek as Chester, and Leo Marks as Smith.

Now to the problems: Mitnick’s script is riddled with endless monologues, which in many cases do not drive the action forward, but instead, foists upon the audience, words, words, and more words beginning with the opening monologue by Tudyk as the writer Mr. Green. You might get the idea by now that the action moves back and forth between the present and the past where the actors make speedy costume changes to become another character. For example, the writer, (Alan Tudyk) who, upon donning a hat and a cape, morphs into Sherlock Holmes. The scenes move back and forth between the writer and his friends, or scenes with Holmes and his daughter, or scenes with Holmes and Watson. If you’re confused, you’re not alone, as it was not easy to follow the parade of different characters. A flow chart would have been helpful.  

Austin Durant as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Regarding the double and triple roles the actors played, one wonders why in a city like Los Angeles, which is overflowing with actors who would give up their day jobs to be in a play, that these multiple roles could not be filled with additional actors, which would have avoided a lot of confusion and split-second costume changes. That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t praise the ensemble for their highly professional, polished performances which, coupled with the eye-popping set, might be worth a trip to the Geffen Playhouse.

“MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES”

Geffen Playhouse

Gil Cates Theater

10886 Le Conte Avenue

Los Angeles, CA 90024  

Run: Tuesday – Friday: 8:00 pm

      Saturday: 3:00 & 8:00 pm 

      Sunday:   1:00 pm & 6:30 pm

Closing: July 14, 2019

 Tickets: $30-$120 

Box Office 310.208.5454

www.geffenplayhouse.com

Related Posts

George Floyd Protesters Take to Santa Monica’s Streets

May 28, 2020

May 28, 2020

Demonstrators march from Santa Monica to Venice Thursday afternoon By Sam Catanzaro “Black lives matter.” “White silence is white violence.”...

Film/TV Review: Upload

May 28, 2020

May 28, 2020

FILM/TV REVIEWUPLOADRated TV-MA30-Minute EpisodesSeason 1,10 Episodes Released on Amazon Prime May 1st Upload has the guise of a cute rom-com....

Santa Monica’s 4th of July Parade Canceled

May 28, 2020

May 28, 2020

COVID-19 leads to cancellation of the annual event By Toi Creel Santa Monica’s annual Fourth of July parade has officially...

Letter to Editor: Protect Santa Monica Seniors

May 26, 2020

May 26, 2020

Dear Editor, As a long-time resident of Santa Monica, I raised my daughters and worked as an educator for close...

Santa Monica Mayor Appears on CNN Asking for Federal Bailout

May 26, 2020

May 26, 2020

“We need the federal government to step up and fund cities,” says Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown. By Sam Catanzaro...

Santa Monica Beach Bike Path Reopens?

May 21, 2020

May 21, 2020

Supervisor Janice Hahn announces opening in Facebook post By Sam Catanzaro The beach bike path in Santa Monica is now...

SMC Students Impacted by COVID-19 Receive Checks

May 21, 2020

May 21, 2020

Santa Monica College receives over $12 million in federal aid By Chad Winthrop Santa Monica College (SMC) students facing severe...

With Over 1 Million Jobless, County Aims at July 4th Reopening

May 19, 2020

May 19, 2020

County: 3/4 of unemployment claims are from those making less than $50,000 By Sam Catanzaro Los Angeles County officials are...

Video: Westside MLB Brothers Give Back

May 18, 2020

May 18, 2020

Two Westside brothers, both professional baseball players, are giving back to local first responders COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more in this...

Santa Monica Police Locate Missing Senior

May 17, 2020

May 17, 2020

82-year-old Marina Godwin located By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica police located Monday 82-year-old senior with dementia who had not been...