Who is killing the Baskervilles? What is happening backstage that threatens the actors' well-being? And Why is Remo Airaldi wearing a dress?
The answer to these and many mysterious questions that plague the actors and the characters they play can be found in the funny and fast-paced Central Square Theater production of The Hound of The Baskervilles.
Adapted by British writers Steven Canny and John Nicholson from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous Sherlock Holmes caper, this Hound is performed by three highly skilled and talented Boston actors who portray the entire ensemble of characters.
Remo Airaldi, an ART regular (he and Tommy Derrah play Herr Schulz and Fraulein Schneider in the ART season opener Cabaret, currently in rehearsal) plays an atypical Holmes, a rather anti-Basil Rathbone casting choice, with an ever-ready spyglass and Meerschaum pipe. He also plays a nefarious houseman and his sister (his appearances as the vamping Venezuelan sister are hysterical). As his assistant Dr. Watson, the handsome and versatile Bill Mootos is ever at his side, with latent possibilities just under, and over the surface. Trent Mills, still a student at the Boston Conservatory, plays the Baskervilles (all of them), including a collection of expressions in a gallery of portraits.
The mostly 2-D set gives a turn-of-the-other-century feel to the evening's conceit of a small (very small) touring company who've come to town.
Bill Mootos welcomes us, in character as "Bill", introducing the other two, appropriately called "Remo" and "Trent". They break the fourth wall again at intermission, when mysterious backstage events lead Trent to call a halt to the proceedings, and all go off to investigate what's happening, creating a reason for the audience to enjoy the newly established lobby pub (The Thirsty Fang), with a beer and wine license, soft drinks and baked goods.
As the condensed novel's plot and myriad characters are somewhat convoluted and hard to follow, the cast returns for Act Two with a recap of the first half at break neck speed, a tour-de-force romp for all three, especially Airaldi.
Tommy Derrah, best known for literally scores of performances at the ART, in regional theaters, and on Broadway ("Jackie: An American Life"), directs the trio of quick-change artists in a campy, comic romp: Sherlock Holmes meets Irma Vep. Timing is sharp and no stone goes unturned (nor a 2-dimensional boulder). The three perform as a true ensemble, seamlessly in sync (except when the seams are intentionally exposed for hilarious effect).
With closing weekend at hand, get a ticket (if you can). It's a perfect summer evening, suitable for all ages. The night I went, the almost sold-out crowd was multi-generational, with many kids laughing along with their parents.
After the performance, Executive Director Catherine Carr Kelly, told me that the success of the lobby bar "pub" has set them thinking of ways to adapt it to fit the setting of upcoming shows. For this show, the name of the pub came from the winner of an online contest at www.centralsquaretheater.com
See the show, join their mailing list, and enter the contest. You might just come up with the winning name for a wine and beer bar to compliment their next show, Truth Values: One Girl's Romp through the MIT Male Math Maze, Gioia De Cari's solo performance memoir.
Romper Room? The Gioia of Drinking?