Cappies: Notre Dame gets original with Sherlock Holmes
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 20, 2012 - Lightning flashes and deep crashes of thunder reverberate as two mysterious strangers creep across the stage. So begins the enigmatic and comedic mystery, "Murder at 221B," at Notre Dame High School, a play that acted as a mental Rubik’s cube that kept the audience both guessing and laughing the entire time.
"Murder at 221B" is an original play and Sherlock Holmes mystery by school technical adviser Michael Flood. The story is a complex one of mistaken identities, double- and triple-crossings, and fake deaths while detectives Wiggins and Ashbottom try to prove Holmes’ innocence as Watson’s murderer. Along the way, the two shoddy detectives meet numerous clients searching for the Weston Emerald — clients who prove to be shady characters with ulterior motives and covert allegiances. With dashes of romance and intrigue and an all-encompassing fast-paced humor to match, the play proved to be engrossing as a captivated audience tried to puzzle out the developing mysteries and keep up with the hilarious cast.
The entire cast maintained high energy level and quick wit as they kept the show moving at a fast pace. While most everyone onstage held admirable rapport with one another, the detective duo Mark Messmer as Wiggins and Charlie Moody as Ashbottom best demonstrated this in their strong, natural, and comedic relationship. Both offered much comedy as they disguised themselves as inspectors, Jewish rabbis, and chimney sweeps, maintaining commendable accents along the way. Also notable was the performance of Carolina de Legarreta as maid Maggie, whose characterization and enthusiasm amplified the play’s energy level.
Katherine Potts as Natalia also distinguished herself. Her fluid portrayal of a gypsy established a distinct stage presence with her movements, accent, and relationship with others onstage. Also noteworthy was Adam Kaul as Hutch, who slinked across the stage in a creepy yet effective depiction of character. Bridget Biundo as Roxanne maintained consistent and believable characterization as she haughtily established a marked stage presence of her own.
The aesthetics of the show were particularly noteworthy. Props, costumes, and set were remarkable as they drew the audience further into the story and remained true to the time period. Special effects such as lightning, thunder, and smoke pouring out of the fireplace were impressive. Lighting was fluid; and although sound was sometimes an issue, the difficulties were handled well and everyone could be heard.
There were few issues with the play. Although the fast pace of the show was essential and entertaining, a few lines were lost when moving too quickly. Occasionally, actors lacked response to events occurring onstage, but this was made up for by the cast’s ability to individually maintain characterization and enthusiasm even when not part of the direct action.
In all, "Murder at 221-B" at Notre Dame High School was a show with a puzzling enigma and uproarious cast that captivated the audience and proved to be more than simply elementary.
Allie Hult is a student at Holt High School. The Cappies program works with student writers who review student theatrical productions.