Park Square Theatre’s latest go-round with Sherlock Holmes begins in the dark. A cacophony of shouted headlines seem to characterize the famed detective as a scoundrel, finally about to meet a well-deserved punishment.
But wait. As the lights come up we discover that it’s not our hero being described at all, but rather infamous Chicago serial killer H.H. Holmes. This tiny twist is just a portent of the many red herrings in store with Jeffrey Hatcher’s clever “Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders.”
In this adaptation of Larry Millett’s novel, the famous detective and his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson find themselves in Chicago on the last leg of an American tour when a tantalizing newspaper story catches their attention. A wealthy young St. Paulite has disappeared the night before his wedding and the story’s assertion that this mystery would challenge even the great Sherlock Holmes is enough to spur the detective to hop a train to the frozen north.
Arriving on the eve of the Winter Carnival, Holmes finds suspects aplenty, from a bride with a secret, to a drunken night watchman, a cross-dressing thief and a spurned lover. Hatcher’s complex script is peppered with witty ripostes and humorous allusions to both past Holmesian adventures and uniquely Minnesota icons. Director Peter Moore nicely balances Hatcher’s tongue-in-cheek approach with an overwrought sense of atmosphere, ably assisted by Evan Middlesworth’s urgently dramatic sound design.
This production isn’t the first outing for Steve Hendrickson and Bob Davis as Holmes and Watson respectively, and that familiarity shows in their chemistry, demonstrated in quips, asides and body language. Hendrickson, who just returned after a medical emergency forced him to miss two weeks, is in fine form as the cool and enigmatic detective, while Davis imbues Watson with a hint of pomposity and a dry sense of humor.
E.J. Subkoviak is a standout in this uniformly solid cast, as a former policeman turned bartender and part-time detective, and the scene in which he and Holmes try to top each other in their powers of deduction is a highlight. Tamara Clark lends the show lively energy as an enterprising journalist, while James Cada displays his considerable range in three roles.
“Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders” is Park Square’s fourth go-round with the famous detective since 2008 and this well-mounted production of Hatcher’s crisp and clever work demonstrates that coldblooded murder still makes for some hot summer fun.
Lisa Brock is a Minneapolis writer.