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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: January 26, 2016

Portland Stage unleashes ‘Hound of Baskervilles’ with humor and fun

Written by: Bob Keyes

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” is one of those rite-of-passage books. It’s perhaps the most famous story in the Sherlock Holmes canon, and the one that brings most people into the literary realm of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s often mandatory reading for middle school kids across the country.

The story captured our imaginations, and instilled fear, because of the menacing look of horror on the face of the deceased Sir Charles Baskerville and “the footprints of a gigantic hound” that were found nearby. Kids who grow up with the fear of dogs have this story to blame.

This week, Portland Stage Company presents a spoof of the detective story, complete with misty moors, a menacing dog and fast-paced antics from a three-person cast that includes Portland favorite Dustin Tucker as the world’s most famous private detective.

And although this one is a spoof, the story itself stays fairly true to the original, which was published in serial form in a British magazine beginning in 1901.

“It’s a silly show and it’s a fun show, with great verbal humor, puns and goofy jokes,” said director Daniel Burson. “You’re going to come in with your knowledge of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ from the original book, the movies and TV shows. We will give you a version that sometimes meets your expectations and sometimes doesn’t. Just when you think it’s serious, we will surprise you.”

There’s gun play, creepy hound noises, lots of fog, candlelight and men in dresses. There’s even a sauna scene.

It has one foot in the world of Conan Doyle and another in the world of slapstick, Burson said, calling it a perfect show to help people work through the winter blues.

In addition to Tucker, the cast includes Ryan Farley as Dr. Watson and Steven Strafford as Sir Henry Baskerville, the dead man’s nephew and heir. Farley stays in character as Watson most of the show. Tucker and Strafford play multiple roles and have dozens of costume changes.

The cast members are Holmes fans, and have been since their teens when they were introduced to the detective in school. They’ve enjoyed a revived interest in Holmes, thanks to the TV series “Sherlock” that stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson.

This version isn’t that at all. This play was originated by the British comedy troupe Peepolykus, and has been produced many times in the United States and United Kingdom since its introduction a decade ago. “It pokes fun at and celebrates the story that we all know so well,” said Strafford, who is appearing in his fourth production at Portland Stage.


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