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  • Nate Adams

'Sherlock Holmes' review: New adventure makes use of a ghost machine in stylish Purple Rose outing

Courtesy of Sean Carter Photography


The game is afoot….again.

The third and potentially final installment in The Purple Rose’s “Sherlock Holmes” series following two successful world premieres by Michigan playwright David MacGregor, “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Ghost Machine” finds most of the creative cast and crew back for another fulfilling outing. Unlike the previous two which dabbled with Souffles and Van Gough’s missing ear, MacGregor takes local audience on an other dimensional trip with the assistance of two pioneers of the electric industry: Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison played here by Purple Rose staples Rusty Mewha and David Bendena.

Of course, Mark Colson, Paul Stroili, and Sarab Kamoo are back playing Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John Watson, and Irene Adler and watching the opening scene, set in the now custom and familiar loft outfitted with the signature atrium (scenic designer Bartley H. Bauer once again almost steals the show), it was like visiting old friends. You wouldn’t know we’ve been on an almost three year hiatus since the last “Sherlock Holmes” venture, because these performers have seamlessly slipped back into their characters with all the same mannerisms and wisdom from previous productions.

Director Angie Kane excels with the various movements of the cast as the entirety of the show stays confined, as did the previous iterations, to Sherlock Holmes’ lavish bachelor pad (if these shows were to continue, I’d love to see Holmes deduce crimes at the scene) and everything feels organic and natural. The show finds Holmes and Adler settled down and enjoying a quiet life, away from crimes whilst Watson spends his evening with old friends and singing show tunes. But there’s a spurt of cabin fever starting to take hold between the trio. Adler is going stir crazy alongside Holmes who doesn’t seem keen on solving mysteries so much as he enjoys making breakfast in bed. And Watson wants to write again.

Enter Nikola Tesla who out of the blue storms in with an odd and rather specific request, he needs London’s greatest mind to help find a stolen device, however, he can’t tell Holmes what said device actually is, creating a rather odd conundrum. Enter Thomas Edison, who arrives out of the blue with a similar request and comparable terms and conditions. As to withhold spoilers, let’s just say the two contrasting personalities (and maybe the British government) have a vested interest in finding out what happens between death and the great beyond, which only grows more complicated when another fan favorite character, Marie Chartier (Caitlin Cavannaugh - terrific) enters the picture with a devious plan of her own.

It creates a fun environment amid The Purple Rose’s intimate setting, once again putting the audience into the action. Colson, Stroili and Kamoo, per usual, have outstanding chemistry and continue giving these shows flavor, but the various additions like Mewha and Bendena keep the material fresh. MacGregor also deserves credit for uncovering fascinating ways to explore these characters as the entire second act of “Ghost Machine” sees Holmes going through an identity crisis, struggling to find purpose for not only himself but Watson and Adler too.

After three productions with the Purple Rose, there’s no indication of a fourth installment as MacGregor has a busy docket over the next year, but if “Ghost Machine” ends the current run, it’s not a bad finale. Kane, along with Suzanne Young’s glowing costumes, Noele Stollmack’s lighting design and Brad Phillips sound work, create a more than worthy addition to the “Sherlock Holmes” franchise. If you’ve seen the other two, make a plan to head out and see this stylish new adventure, but newbies don’t be detoured, “Ghost Machine” still makes for an engrossing evening of theatre without the knowledge of what came before.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE ADVENTURE OF THE GHOST MACHINE continues through August 27th at The Purple Rose Theatre Company. You can purchase tickets here.


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