Have you ever noticed that the fictional Sherlock Holmes has a chip on his shoulder the size of the Rock of Gibraltar? In the play, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily, that’s a good thing.
The plays that have been adapted from Sir Arthur Canon Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series of stories are legion. In 1899 William Gillette wrote and starred in the most produced titular play that deals with Holmes, co-written by Doyle. More recently, the beloved detective has also been adapted to the stage more than once by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher.
A play that premiered in 2008 by Katie Forgette, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily, combines the fictional Holmes with real life characters like Oscar Wilde and Abdul Karim, the former an esteemed playwright whose plays are the forerunner of today’s situation comedy and the latter a member of Queen Victoria court and immortalized in the 2017 film, Victoria & Abdul.
Lillie Langtry, a.k.a. The Jersey Lily, was a British socialite and actress who had a liaison with the then Prince of Wales, which plays into the plot of the story.
While this tale is set in the early 1890’s, you can now, over a hundred years later, visit the childhood home of Oscar Wilde in Dublin as well as a Sherlock Holmes museum on the same block as the detective’s fictional address of 221 Baker Street in London.
In West Texas, there’s the town of Langtry, named after the actress although it’s a bit of a ghost town with the only structure being a reconstructed saloon originally built by Judge Roy Bean, who was obsessed with Langtry even though he never met her.
Alley Theatre resident actor Rob Waite has previously played Holmes in the above mentioned plays. He reprises the role in the current Houston Alley Theatre production of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily running until May 14, 2023.
Waite’s tall lanky appearance and his chameleon ability to portray different characters enhances his performance as Holmes, especially when the master sleuth enters stage left in a disguise.
Mixing the fictional Holmes and his trusted sidekick Dr. Watson with historical characters adds charm to what is already a durable evening in front of the proscenium arch.
A single set doubles as Holmes upstairs apartment as well as an abandoned factory. Holmes is hired by Jersey Lily and Wilde to investigate the possible theft of love letters from her royal lover.
There’s abundant humor and some clever choreographed knife play, along with a sword duel between Holmes and his ultimate nemesis, Professor Moriarty.
Between the wit of Wilde and the wisdom of Holmes, the audience will be overwhelmed by strong performances from the entire cast and Forgette’s skillful reimagining of Victorian England.