Let me cut to the chase: Make immediate plans to see “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” at the Rep. It's sly, hugely engrossing fun.
Joseph Graves, who local drama enthusiasts will recognize from his roles in “Of Mice and Men,” “Othello,” “All the King's Men” or any of the six other shows in which he's been featured at the Rep, plays Holmes with an infectious giddiness that — while at first seems at odds with his character's cerebral aloofness — strengthens the audience's bond with him. That joyous and unyielding quest for truth, of course, connects Holmes to Watson, played brilliantly by the British-born Colin McPhillamy, who serves as the play's bemused narrator when he's not acting the straight man to Holmes' zany powers of deduction.
Playwright Steven Dietz merged elements of six Arthur Conan Doyle stories and an 1899 play by William Gillette, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” to put together “Final Adventure.” The plot, complicated but never confounding, features unapologetic cocaine use, a Bohemian king, a retired opera diva, cross continental travel and, of course, Holmes' arch nemesis, Moriarty.
Played with just the right amount of cartoonish malevolence, Mark Edward Waterman gives Moriarty a toothy grin, maniacal laugh and booming, precisely articulated speech. As the former opera diva and source of mystery, Heidi-Marie Ferren, of Searcy, is luminous. She more than convinces in her role as an intellectual and romantic equal to Holmes. Jason O'Connell as the King of Bohemia impresses, too, in a largely comedic role that includes a thick Germanic accent (Bohemian? Why not?), a garish outfit and lots of flailing.
Director Bob Hupp makes excellent use of the stage, a tight, cozy set-up that starts in Holmes' study, with a card catalog database of crime, a coat rack supplied with a seemingly endless supply of jackets (lounge coats, priest smocks, standard Holmes-style overcoats) and of course tons of tomes. In moments of transition, Hupp uses the background and foreground inventively. Moriarty and Ferren's opera diva are introduced, spotlighted, high above Holmes' study, on what later becomes Reichenbach Falls, and during set-changes, with the set darkened, McPhillamy's Watson steps forward in the spotlight to continue his narration.
The play, the penultimate show of the season, continues through April 27. Tickets are $20 to $35 and can be purchased by calling 378-0405 or 866-684-3737 or on the website at therep.org.