Fans of the Actors Guild of Parkersburg who have been hungry to view a production from their beloved troupe can rejoice. While it may not be in the format they would prefer, theater lovers can enjoy an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic The Hound of the Baskervilles this weekend from the comfort of their own homes.
Adapted by John Jory from the Doyle classic, the story is no doubt familiar to diehard fans of the immortal detective as well as those more casual followers. The story, adapted into no less than fifteen films (one animated), one TV miniseries, and as episodes on the two popular TV series Sherlock and Elementary starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller respectively, the hound has always been reputed to be a beast from Hell, capable of literally terrifying its victim to death. But our trusty duo of Holmes and Watson always find that the solution to the mystery is much less supernatural than the locals believe.
Starring Chris Parsons as Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Matthews as his trusty sidekick Dr. John Watson, this radio-style production is, as is always true of work by the Guild, simply terrific. Parsons and Matthews have great chemistry together. Danny Bayer, who has relatively recently returned to Parkersburg after living away from the MOV for several years, adds great panache as a family friend of the Baskervilles, Dr. James Mortimer, who comes to hire Holmes to solve the mystery of the enigmatic hound. We find out from Mortimer that the legend of the cursed canine goes all the way back to the 1700s, when the lecherous, drunken Hugo Baskerville kidnapped a comely young local woman and tried to force her to marry him. When she escaped, he gave chase, followed by his drinking buddies.
According to the legend, the men found the woman and Baskerville both dead in the moors near Baskerville Hall. The woman had died of exposure and exhaustion, but Baskerville’s death was much more gruesome. He was lying on the ground near his horse with an extraordinarily huge hound ripping his throat out. And ever since, the denizens of Baskerville Hall have died gruesome deaths, the most recent being Sir Charles, who has apparently died of fright while standing near to the gate to the moor. Mortimer reveals a key clue, however, that no one else seems to have noticed: a huge paw print in the mud a short distance from the body.
When he also tells of local reports of a large, glowing hound wandering the moors in the days immediately before Sir Charles’ death, Holmes and Watson are on the case. They immediately meet Sir Henry Baskerville, played with great aplomb by the inimitable RJ Lowe. Henry is the final direct heir to the estate, or at least he seems to be. In addition to the property, Sir Henry inherits the astounding wealth that goes with it. Sir Henry has come from Canada, where he has lived most of his life, and Dr. Mortimer hopes that Holmes can solve the case before the new heir meets an equally grisly end.
Along the way, we meet many locals, all of whom seem to have something to hide. There are the caretakers of the hall, Barrymore and his wife, played convincingly by David Grande and Jean Newton. Why, Watson wonders, do they wander the halls late at night after everyone is asleep? Then there are Stapleton and his sister, played equally well by Tim Tuten and Kalina Jones. Is there some reason Stapleton reacts so violently when Sir Henry and Miss Stapleton start spending time together? Finally, one wonders why Sir Charles was corresponding with Mrs. Lyons, a woman trying to divorce her abusive brute of a husband, and why she felt the need to ask him to burn her letter.
The solution is, to borrow a phrase from our hero, elementary. And every minute leading to it is highly entertaining. Director David Rexroad has chosen a stellar cast and has guided them well. I deduce you will enjoy it from beginning to end. This is the part where I normally tell you to hurry to get your tickets before they’re sold out, but there are no tickets. This show is completely free of charge. All you need do is tune in to the Guild’s Facebook page on Saturday, July 18 at 7 pm or Sunday July 19 at 3 pm. While the show is free, the good people at the Guild do ask that you consider making a donation. The vast majority of their operating capital is generated through ticket sales and, while expenses associated with maintaining their facility have continued through this pandemic, sales have not, so any help you can give would be appreciated. You can donate by going to the Guild’s website. See the show and give to a good cause!