Miss Holmes


Inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Written by Christopher M. Walsh.

Directed by Paul S. Holmquist.

At Lifeline Theatre, Chicago.

Clever re-take on Sherlock Holmes as a female works deftly.

The creatives at Lifeline Theatre, known for staging literary adaptations, has expanded to create new plays based on literary works. Christopher M. Walsh, a terrific actor and experienced adapter/writer for the stage, has created a smart, funny yet very Sherlock Holmes styled mystery in a world premiers play now playing at Lifeline Theatre.

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Walsh creates a female Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson that were not simply females playing the men but new characters who were burdened with most of the prejudices, societal limitations, and female rebellion were not tolerated in 19th Century Englsnd. This script demonstrates the Victorian norms that most women were forced to endure.   Sherlock (a remarkably performance by Katie McLean Hainsworth) was always getting into trouble because she broke many male only taboos such as boxing among her aggressive actions. She is constantly being incarcerated for behavior deemed abnormal in a “respectable” lady. Her brother Mycroft Holmes (Chris Hainsworth) is both constantly bailing Sherlock out of trouble while also trying to control her anti-societal behavior. The two have a love-hate relationship.

This amazing play deals with the anti-female bias against women medical doctors  such as Doctor Dorthy Watson.  We learn about why Watson (the terrific Mandy Walsh) had so much trouble studying medicine that she was forced to go to Switzerland to finish her studies. We also learn that in 1881 London, females doctors had to work only in an all female hospital. Dr. Watson was quirky simply by her determination to break societal barriers in the medical profession.

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Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes forged a bond of trust out of both necessity and a mutual curiosity about events. Playwright Walsh weaves all the smart observations by Holmes with the unique observations by Watson that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would appreciate to establish a fine  mystery. Add a Holmes style plot and this new work appeals to mystery lovers. Much  humor emerges as we view all Holmes and Watson’s foibles, Katie McLean Hainsworth’s performance is a winner as she delivers the cleverness and rich humor of the quirky Holmes.

Utilizing a stunning compact yet varied set (designed by Ashley Ann Woods), Miss Holmes has the two women  struggling to uncover the secrets surrounding a corrupt police investigator whose wives have a habit of turning up dead.   I’ll not say much more about the plot except to say that it is a genuine Holmes style mystery with several plot twists.

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Besides a gender bending pedigree, Miss Holmes has an inter-racial cast  filled with expert actors with a wonderful assortment of British accents (kudos to dialect coach Elise Kauzlaric)  enhances the play. Wonderful multi-character work from African-American actors including LaQuin Groves, Abie Irabor, and Christopher W. Jones, marked one of the finest examples of how color-blind casting can work in theatre if  talented actors of color can get the opportunity to demonstrate their skills! Each of the above effectively played several roles with ease and skill.  Add John Henry Roberts as the assumed villain Thomas Chapman and Kate Nawrocki as Lizza Chapman and we have two more worthy performances.

Lifeline Theatre has mounted a noteworthy play – one that expertly takes Sherlock Holmes into gender-bending territory while still being sensitive to Doyle’s characters. Christopher M. Walsh and director Paul S. Holmquist have not only created a ‘new’ Holmes mystery but they have firmly established the female Holmes and Watson persona that calls or sequels to happen? I hope Walsh has a text short story version of this fabulous work because it could be a best-seller on Amazon Kindle!

Mystery fans and theatre lovers need to get to Lifeline theatre to experience a smart, fast-paced Sherlock Holmes with a twist! It is refreshing to see such skilled creation so wonderfully staged and performed. Lifeline Theatre once more shows why they are a Chicago  treasure.

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: September 19, 2016.

Jeff Recommended.

For more info checkout the Miss Holmes page at theatreinchicago.com.

At Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood, Chicago, IL, call 773-762-4477, www.lifelinetheatre.com, tickets $40 – $30 for seniors, $20 for students and $20 rush tickets, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 4 and 8 pm, Sundays at 4 pm, running time is 2hours and 15 minutes with intermission, through October 30, 2016.

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