Jan. 21 2009 12:00 AM

Familiar characters, warm performances carry cool ’Holmes’


The cast and crew of “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure,” now showing at Lansing’s Riverwalk Theatre, is given the task of a misbegotten mail carrier: to complete their appointed rounds despite the inclement conditions.

It doesn’t take the deductive logic of a Sherlock Holmes to reason that if the bone-numbing cold outside is matched by frozen water pipes and little heat within the theater, even a well-put-together show is likely to go awry; nothing is more elemental than the weather.

Little short of perpetual motion could warm this seriocomic tale written by Stephen Dietz and directed by Addiann Hinds. None of this is meant to suggest that the cast doesn’t do its best to overcome the elements.

Kevin Burnham, as Holmes, and Terry Johnson, as trusted sidekick Watson, make a delightfully mismatched pair. Burnham’s Holmes is crisp and resplendent in velvet sophistication, while Johnson’s Watson rambles about in a multi-layered rumple of never-ironed clothes. Both characters remain frozen in time as the kings of clever circumlocutions, delivering the erroneously witty observations Holmes aficionados love, peppered with exclamations of “Aha,” “Eureka” and “Bingo!” Burnham and Johnson do not drop a single line, and their artful articulations work.

Mark Zussman adds a stiff-backed malevolence to the mix as the slick-haired villain, Professor Moriarity, whose appearance causes the plot (what plot there is) to thicken. Plot, however, has always been secondary to characterizations in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, and this “Final Adventure,” which is based on those tales, is no exception.

Hinds has assembled a supporting cast of seasoned actors to play the remaining zany parts, all of which add to the overall campiness of the production. James Houska, in the role of cockney crook Sid Prince, walks through his part as contortedly as a victim of St. Vitus’ dance, while Michael Hays, as the King of Bohemia, provides an excess of accents that would make Peter Sellers proud; Husband, becomes “hus-pent,” and every letter “R” is followed by three rolls of the tongue.

Amy Winchell demonstrates great stage movement and an intense range of emotion, while Tanya Burnham adds an element of sensual sophistication. Joe Dickson is a cheeky, foppish bad guy.

As the action in this play wraps up, the actors moving quickly with great urgency in their voices, the audience stirs from its molasses-like torpor, lifting stiff hands to clap and demonstrate they have survived frostbite and enjoy the play.

‘Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure’

Jan. 25 7 p.m. Thursday 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday 2 p.m. Sunday
Riverwalk Theatre, 228 Museum Drive, Lansing $8-$14 (517) 482-5700 www.riverwalktheatre.com