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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Theater review: a threadbare Lily at Temple Theatre

Posted by on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 3:55 PM

click to enlarge Betsy Henderson and David McClutchey, in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE JERSEY LILY.
  • Betsy Henderson and David McClutchey, in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE JERSEY LILY.
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily
★★
Temple Theatre
through Apr. 6

templeshows.com

All right, I’m convinced. There is an absolutely ripping yarn to be made from the convergence of the following characters. The first three are historical; the latter three, fictive:

  • Lillie Langtry, d.b.a. “The Jersey Lily,” renowned Victorian actress (and paramour to future King Edward VII),
  • her confidante, Irish playwright Oscar Wilde,
  • Abdul Karim, a controversial, enigmatic and decidedly personal Indian attendant to Queen Victoria,
  • arch-fiend Professor James Moriarty,
  • detective Sherlock Holmes, and 
  • his faithful, long-time associate, Dr. John Watson.

I only wish I was nearly as convinced that playwright Katie Forgette’s Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily is it. Published in 2009, one year before writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss gave the beloved Doyle detective a rich new life in contemporary London in the celebrated BBC series, Forgette’s thoroughly workmanlike efforts in this occasionally comic melodrama rarely rise above the level of fan fiction.

Instead she coasts along here, relying heavily upon character conventions already well-established for Holmes, Watson and Wilde while adding precious little to them. Such paper-thin characterizations grow tiresome well before Forgette abandons logic entirely in the low-grade skulduggery of Lily's second act.

When talents of the caliber of actors David McClutchey, Betsy Henderson and Pauline Cobrda, all long-respected, familiar names in this community of practice, cannot rescue an enterprise, it can only be considered particularly ill-advised.

Certainly we will see these stalwarts again on the regional stage. When we do, we also hope to see newcomer Jeffrey McGullion, whose sharp-eyed take on the evil Moriarty entertained as well.

Temple Theatre frequently presents dramatic work well worth the trek to Sanford. Hopefully, this threadbare Lily will prove only a momentary exception to the rule.

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