SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET OF MAKING WHOOPEE II: THE HOUDINI INCIDENT
nytheatre.com review by David Hilder
"There’s nothing like meningitis," says a slightly wistful Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle. He’s also slightly out of breath, having just performed a
spectacularly silly reenactment of death by said disease. His audience
is a beautiful woman, utterly enthralled.
August 15, 2003
This moment is perfectly in keeping with every other element of Sherlock Holmes and the Secret of Making Whoopee II: The Houdini Incident by Sean Cunningham, directed with precision by Will Frears and Jackson Gay, and performed with daffy �lan by a gifted cast of five. The show is an hour-long exploration of deep dark secrets, faux spiritualism, axe murder, necrophilia, a 12-year case of consumption, the superiority of the English over the Irish, and above all sodomy. Did I mention the musical numbers?
You can probably determine from the above paragraph whether or not Sherlock Holmes and the Secret of Making Whoopee II: The Houdini Incident will appeal to you. Plot summary is useless here. If the script is not quite able to sustain the delirious, mercurial effervescence it demonstrates in its first ten minutes, and if it occasionally dips into cheap comedy rather than low comedy, it has many, many laughs to recommend it. And it is being given a terrific production in FringeNYC 2003. In particular, the costumes by Katherine Hampton Nolan are all terrific, ranging from sedate suits for Sir Arthur and his mentor, Dr. Bell, to lovely dresses for Mrs. Doyle, to Harry Houdini’s outlandish escape outfit.
But above all kudos must go to the cast. As Doyle, Adrian LaTourelle centers the play with a dry aplomb which is all the funnier for being all too flappable. Rich Liccardo plays Dr. Bell (a man with far too many reasons, it seems, to keep hollering, "Never mind!") and other roles with a delightful mix of restraint and silliness. Brandon T. Miller, as Sherlock Holmes, Harry Houdini, and others, scores in every scene. Jason Lindner is particularly funny as Houdini’s brother Hardeen, with the funniest song ending of the evening. And as an assortment of women, Lael Logan nails every accent, lands every joke, and never allows the boys to have all the fun.
If your taste runs toward Monty Python or SCTV, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret of Making Whoopee II: The Houdini Incident will be right up your alley.