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'Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery' opens Wednesday

Ryan Richardson, left, plays Sherlock Holmes and Michael Quadrozzi, plays Dr. Watson in the Paul Bunyan Playhouse’s presentation of “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” by Ken Ludwig. The show opens Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Historic Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)

 BEMIDJI—The Paul Bunyan Playhouse presents "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" by Ken Ludwig as the second production for the 2017 summer season. The show opens Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Historic Chief Theater in downtown Bemidji.

In this amusing transformation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic, "The Hound of the Baskervilles," Tony and Olivier Award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig gives the audience a balance between mystery and mirth, staying surprisingly true to the original story with its eerie depiction of the untimely demise of the Baskerville male heirs.

Plagued by a brutal, devilish hound (whose image is absent onstage yet, in that absence, builds up to be a monstrosity truly capable of devious life only in one's imagination), the bizarre plight of the Baskervilles attracts Doyle's famous sleuths. Ludwig's interpretation gives us a direct yet cunningly deceptive Sherlock Holmes, persuasively played by Ryan Richardson. He's accompanied, as always, by his ever-loyal and charmingly innocent sidekick Dr. Watson, endearingly done by Michael Quadrozzi. Both become immediately embroiled, Sherlock style, in a suspenseful yet humorous adventure amidst murder and mayhem on the Devonshire moors of England.

Yet, while the laughs abound in this melodramatic portrayal from Ludwig, it still comes down to what is universally expected of this detective duo, and that is...them versus evil. Our beloved Holmes and Watson eternally battling the bad guys, and girls too, bringing justice to those needing it in desperate measure. Certainly, there are moments of horror for the Sherlock fans in the Baskerville family mansion on the moor, but there are moments of farcical glimpses, masterfully mixed for Mel Brooks fans, of Frau Blucher and Igor from the Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein, too.

These two icons of literature, theatre and film find themselves surrounded by a veritable carousel of characters in this escapade. All are admirably portrayed by just three actors: the first actor is Nic Delcambre, the second actor is Benjamin Habel and first actress is Kate Aarness. These three deftly manage to portray more than a dizzying 35 different roles between them, some with great hilarity and some with somber sternness, bending genders and creative costumes in all sorts of comical ways.

All the while, the "special effects" employed to bring about a complete theatrical experience, not to mention the numerous thick accents and costume changes, make this entire endeavor present delightfully well, providing a thoroughly entertaining, enjoyable evening, proving exactly how far from elementary the truth can be.

The creative team responsible for bringing this production to welcome life on the Playhouse stage consists of Jim Williams, artistic director for the Playhouse, stage manager Gavin Johnson, scenic designer and tech director Isaac Sawle, costume designer Alexandra Gould, lighting designer Grant E. Merges, prop designer Kristine Cannon, resident stitcher Marilyn Hood and technician Daniel Paul John Lane.

The Paul Bunyan Playhouse performances of "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday with a Sunday, June 25 matinee performance at 2 p.m., continuing Wednesday, June 28, through Saturday, July 1, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at (218) 751-7270 or online at www.thechieftheater.com/tickets.html.

Opening nights and matinees cost $17. Regular admission tickets are $22 and student tickets are $12.

Schoolhouse Rock Live!, based on the Emmy Award-winning Saturday morning teaching cartoon, will play July 5-15.

This production is underwritten by First National Bank, Norbord Minnesota, Bob Lowth Ford and The Bunkhouse.

IF YOU GO

What: "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" production by Paul Bunyan Playhouse

When: Wednesday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 25, matinee, 2 p.m.; Continues June 25-July 1, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Chief Theater, downtown Bemidji

Tickets: May be purchased by calling the box office at (218) 751-7270 or online at www.thechieftheater.com/tickets.html. Opening night and matinees are $17 with regular admission tickets at $22, and student tickets are $12.

Up next: Schoolhouse Rock Live! will play July 5-15

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