'The Hound of the Baskervilles' runs until Dec. 22 at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford. The play offers a funny take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most celebrated Sherlock Holmes story. We sat down with Director Tom Ridgely and actors Brennan Caldwell, Sean Harris and Rich Hollman to talk about the show. The Q&A, below, has been edited for clarity. This video features highlights from the conversation.
Q: I’m over at Playhouse on Park, which is located on Park St in West Hartford, and I’m with the entire cast of the “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Would you gentlemen please introduce yourselves?
Brennan: Hi I’m Brennan Caldwell: I’ll be playing the part of Sir Henry Baskerville and some other parts.
Rich: I’m Rich Hollman: I’ll be playing the part of Sherlock Holmes, the Butler Barrymore, Mrs. Barrymore, Stapleton, Cecille Stapleton, Station Agent, and Yokel Three.
Tom: I’m Tom Ridgely, the Director.
Sean: I’m Sean Harris: I’m playing Dr Watson, as well as Yokel One.
Q: Tom, would you mind telling us a little bit about the history of this play, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well?
Tom: Sure, it’s actually a comeback story for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle... he wrote a prequel called “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” There’s a legend surrounding this hound which is killing of the heirs to the title and the estate. A local doctor comes to London and enlists Holmes in solving this mystery in Dartmoor.
Q: What is the screenplay like? What can the audience expect to see as you bring this to life from the novel?
Tom: It’s a three actor adaptation from a British company called: People Like Us. A lot of the fun is watching the actors take on the challenge. There’s a virtuosity required in taking on the play and seeing the actors rising to the challenge.
Q: How do you handle having so many different characters?
Sean: I have two so... I basically am Doctor Watson. Yokel One is for about thirty seconds.
Q: It seems like Yokel One would be a very important part.
Sean: It is! *laughter*
Rich: I think for me a lot of the challenge is offstage. Because at points a man exits stage right and enters seconds later as a women. Making it seamless backstage is tough and requires precision.
Q: So, when you go into this theater, really what you have is the stage and four rows of seats. There isn’t a whole lot of separation. How does the fourth wall play into this?
Sean: The theater is quite immersive. The audience gets very involved with us, and we with them, as we break the fourth wall for quite a bit of the play. It should be really interesting to feel that energy between us as the actors, and then us and the audience.
Tom: The Playhouse is such an incredible theater. It’s really the ideal sort of space. There isn’t that sort of marriage of material and architecture happening anywhere.
Q: It’s not the sort of novel (Hound of the Baskervilles) that people would think of turning into a play, either?
Tom: It’s a lot like “39 Steps” in that they took this big dense material and turn it into a small cast adaptation.
Q: It is a British novel and a British adaptation, so are you going British or doing an Americanized adaptation?
Sean: All the different characters have different British dialects.
Brennan: ...the cockneys, the British upper class.
Rich: It’s pretty clear from Sean’s creation of Yokel One, that Yokel One’s father is from Liverpool.
Q: I feel like most people would pick up on that naturally?
Rich: If there’s anything that will be clear in this production, it’s the family lineage of Yokel One. *laughter* I feel like if Sir Arther Conan Doyle had lived longer, he would have created an entire series on Yokel One.
Brennan: Perhaps even named him at some point!
Sean: All joking aside, we do play around with different dialects.
Q: If Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was alive today and came to opening night, what do you think his reaction would be to this material?
Tom: Dismay... *laugher* No, he would have loved it. Because the show loves Sherlock Holmes, and it’s apparent that the guys love these characters.
Q: I think a lot of being Sherlock Holmes is the character being able to improvise... use small details... and use what’s at hand. And that’s a lot of what you all are doing here.
Sean: There is a lot of improvisation with the show.
Q: What about the costumes? Do you make any special wardrobe changes? Are we talking about full Victorian bonnets and so forth?
Rich: I don’t know how much I want to give away for the illusion’s sake, but we have an amazing costume designer, Erin, and we have done shows with her before. She has a way of making costumes that are perfectly period, really beautiful on stage, but rigged to be like stripper pants, and rip off quickly. I will always be wearing Sherlock Holmes as the base, with everything else on top.
Q: What about the fourth wall? When you break character do you stay British?
Brennan: No, actually, quite American for those parts. In the first production the names of the actors were listed for the parts where the fourth wall was broken.
Q: Well thank you so much, and could you just tell us the technical details of where and when people can come see this?
Sean: So we technically open tonight (December 4th) and the first official night is Friday, December 6th and we run till the 22nd of December, we run Wednesday through Sundays. Wednesdays and Thursday at 7:30, Fridays at 8:00 pm. The Sunday show is a matinee, at 2 p.m., and we have a talk back with us, which is really cool. You can check out playhouseonpark.org, and we also have student rush, and we want to get as many students and lovers of Sherlock Holmes as possible, so we are offering group rates.
Brennan Caldwell, Rich Hollman and Sean Harris star in The Hound of the Baskervilles at Playhouse on Park. Directed by Tom Ridgely. (Cheyney Barrieau photo)