Chicago Theatre Review
‘Miss Holmes’ a Delightfully Feminist Twist on an Old Tale
Miss Holmes – Lifeline Theatre
“Miss Holmes,” the world-premiere production that kicks off Lifeline Theatre’s 2016-2017 season, is two things at once: a sterling origin tale of the Sherlock Holmes/Doctor Watson partnership with all the wit, mystery, and dynamism one would expect of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective; and a decidedly feminist take on that familiar tale, one that casts women in the roles of Holmes and Watson.
As with all Holmes tales, the setup is a simple one: Sherlock , recently sprung from prison by her brother Mycroft , is tasked by a seemingly fearful, naive wife of modest means to find out who is sending her letters of a warning nature – specifically, that her husband, a respected (albeit corrupt and feared) member of the Scotland Yard, is plotting to murder her. With her newly recruited sidekick, a disgruntled Dr. Watson, Holmes takes on the case, not knowing where it will ultimately lead. To reveal too much of the plot would spoil all the fun, but suffice to say, the action features numerous twists and turns, with the ultimate revelation being one of pure joy…with grisly undertones.
The key here is the casting and scripting. Holmes and Watson are such familiar characters that any actor risks mere replication, but Katie McLean Hainsworth’s Holmes and Mandy Walsh’s Watson are true originals, and they are complemented beautifully by Lifeline’s dialogue, which positively cackles with energy and delights in its commentary on Victorian England. Courtesy of Christopher M. Walsh, whose adaptation of “A Tale of Two Cities” was sublime, “Miss Holmes” never overplays its feminist politics, preferring instead to slowly build how disadvantaged Holmes and Watson are as intelligent, independent women in a society that so clearly does not value such attributes.
The entire cast is equally terrific: Chris Hainsworth relishes Mycroft’s thorniness; Abie Irabor is absolutely charming in her multiple roles; Christopher W. Jones, who was terrific in a number of DePaul productions while he was a student there, makes an excellent impression as Inspector Lestrade; and Michael Reyes, who was very funny in Stage Left’s production of “Mutt,” generates arguably the biggest laughs of the night with some of the most wildly gesticulated German on a Chicago stage.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented through Oct. 30 by Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood Ave.
Tickets are available by calling 773-761-4477 or by visiting www.lifelinetheatre.com.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.