REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Holmes and Watson

HOLMES-AND-WATSON-at-City-Lit-“A Scandal in Bohemia” &

“The Final Problem”

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Adapted and directed by Terry McCabe

Remount with new cast fueled by strong acting brings Holmes and Watson to life

City Lit Theater, the jewel of Edgewater, specializes “in literature theatre including stage adaptations of literary material.” They return to that mission with a wonderful remount adaptation (by director Terry McCabe) of two of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories: “A Scandal in Bohemia” (the first of a series of 56 short stories) and “The Final Problem” (the intended last of the Holmes short stories—ten years later, Doyle resumed doing more Holmes stories). These Sherlock Holmes stories are narrated by Doctor Watson.

These two one acts are re-imagined as psychological dramas that, except for a cameo by Adrienne Matzen, as Irene Adler, are a two-handers with James Sparling as Holmes and Adam Bitterman as Dr. Watson.

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I was impressed by several things in this remount from City Lit’s 2006 production of Holmes and Watson.

One, the strong and varied performance by Adam Bitterman who returns to Chicago after twenty years in LA. He is a master craftsman of dialect; articulate, and easily comfortable with fast-talking descriptive language utilizing Irish, Cockney or RP, Scottish—even German-Bohemian accents. His facial expressions are telling as he deftly conveys either the angst or the depths of humor in a scene are a pleasure to watch. His Dr. Watson is a marvel to witness. Welcome back to Chicago.

Two, James Sparling proves that rapid-fire speech can work if the actor uses enough tone and articulate enunciation.  Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is in good hands with Sparling. His witty, erudite detective, who warns Watson: “You see but not observe,” to the vulnerable, frightened crime fighter obsessed with bring down Professor Moriarty is expertly presented here. Sparling is most effective as the genius detective.

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Lastly, as I stated in my 2006 review of this work:  “Terry McCabe’s brisk treatment of Holmes and Watson is an excellent primer to introduce new audiences to the marvels of Doyle’s writing as well as offering his core audience a concise evening of strong acting delivering worthy classic literature.” That is, indeed, the case with this production.

In “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Holmes matches wits with Miss Alder, an opera singer and adventuress who haunts Holmes as “the woman.” Actually, Bitterman’s powerful depiction of the Bohemian king highlights this act.

“The Final Problem” is Sparling’s act as he depicts Holmes’ fear and frustration with bring the arch criminal Professor Moriarty to justice. This textually accurate adaptation offers a fresh look into the personal relationship between the detective and the doctor. Did Holmes really die? You be the judge.

Kudos to City Lit Theater for offering us such polished work. Once you see this fine show, you’ll go to Amazon for more Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. The strength of Bitterman and Sparling’s performances makes for a wonderful stage adventure.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: November 11. 2014

For more info checkout the Homes And Watson page at

At City Lit Theater Company in the Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, Chicago, IL , Call 773-293-3682,,  tickets $29,Fridays & Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 3 PM, Running time is 1 hour, 40 minutes with intermission, through December 14, 2014

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