Sherlock Through the Looking Glass

by Michelle Sandoval

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday November 28, 2013

Sean Faye, Timothy Portnoy, Michael Hoag, Kevin Stidham
Sean Faye, Timothy Portnoy, Michael Hoag, Kevin Stidham  (Source:Rob Cunliffe)

I often imagine scenarios where different authors, or their literary creations, meet each other, or various fictional characters, in real places or imagined ones. Who hasn't pictured what would occur if Shakespeare found himself in Neverland, the Dust Bowl, or present day America? This is perfectly normal, right?

Fortunately for me, I have talented young playwrights like Gus Krieger to do the creative thinking for me, and in his new play he has melded the works of Lewis Carroll and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which places the infamous Sherlock Holmes in the mind-altering, fantastical world of Alice's Wonderland. Not an easy feat to accomplish, "Sherlock Through The Looking Glass" is both successful and unsuccessful, but the ambition is applaudable and the end result, regardless of its flaws, is inspiring.

The play transports us to London in the 1800s where we find that a handful of people have succumb to a plague-like sickness that causes delusion and hysteria, much like that displayed in Carroll's fictional "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." Provoked by a group led by someone referred to as the "Jabberwock," it is up to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to solve the mystery of the curious illness and put a stop to it before it overcomes London with its madness.

I can only imagine that Sherlock Holmes would be a hard character to portray. Based on the Sherlocks I've seen on film, some succeed and others just miss the mark. Kevin Stidham gets it right; in fact he gets it so right that the triumph of the show lies entirely on his performance. All of the missteps in the play are forgotten because of his brilliant performance. I would watch Stidham in anything; he is simply mesmerizing.

Joining Stidham on stage are Timothy Portnoy as Dr. Watson, Dana DeRuyck as Josephine Childress and Jennifer Bronstein as Lillian Childress, among a handful of other fine actors portraying both characters in present set time and whimsical Wonderland time. Portnoy had the biggest shoes to fill as Watson is always overshadowed by Holmes.

Kevin Stidham gets it right; in fact he gets it so right that the triumph of the show lies entirely on his performance. I would watch him in anything; he is simply mesmerizing.

It is said that the two cannot function without the other as Watson brings a humble eye to any scenario that balances Holmes' eccentricity. In this case his character did not work for me, he only really became present deep into the second act and by that time it was simply too late. I would have liked to have seen him shine a bit more as the opportunities were plentiful.

DeRuyck was simply delightful as one of the unfortunates taken by the strange plague. Look for her excellent performance in the first act where we see her crumble and give in to the illness that so mysteriously afflicts her.

The start of the second act is when things really take a leap down the rabbit hole. There is a long scene where Holmes himself succumbs to the madness and is thrown into a Wonderland-type nightmare. Here we encounter all the characters from Carroll's tale wearing distorted masks and creeping around the stage in a trance while shouting confusing riddles.

It is whimsical, quite terrifying, and over all confusing, much like what I imagine Wonderland would really be like in a very bad dream. But it was fascinating; you will be whipped through the portals of utter disarray and then ripped back up through the same hole with an explanation for everything -- you will even have an answer to the age old riddle of "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"

The plot is convoluted at times, and the resolution of the mystery is a bit silly but it is all good fun nonetheless. The production may be a bit cheesy, but sometimes that can be a good thing (don't get me started on my affinity for B-Horror films)!

If I can say one thing about "Sherlock Through The Looking Glass" it is that you will have a blast watching it. It is worth your time, your laughs, even your scoffs! We all need a little madness in our lives every once in a while, Krieger's play is that perfect dose in the pretty little bottle marked "Drink Me" that is just too enticing not to consume.

"Sherlock Through The Looking Glass" runs through Dec. 22 at the Odyssey Theatre, 2005 South Sepulveda Blvd., in Los Angeles. For tickets or information, call 313-477-2055 or visit