Orange County Theatre Reviews

written by Patrick Chavis 

Sherlock Holmes is, without a doubt, the most famous detective in recognized detective fiction. Sherlock is an archetype of the brilliant but eccentric crime-solver. I say archetype because he’s been copied over as different book characters to literal adoptions, shows, and re-imaginings (see House). In Sherlock Holmes and the Maple Leaf Killer, we find ourselves watching maybe the most Un-Sherlock Sherlock Holmes story imaginable–partly because the man is rarely there. This is the story of Sherlock’s protégés (not Watson), Oscar Dove, and Busby. Can they solve the crime? Will the brave detectives survive? Or will the dangerously cold Canadian climate be too much for our heroes?

A murder occurred, this time in the cold climate of Calgary, Canada. The deceased is Max Walcott, and he recently hired Oscar Dove to find out who was trying to kill him. After the mystery person succeeds, Oscar Dove(not to mention a disguised Sherlock dressed like a cowboy) must shift through all the different suspects and prove he can solve a crime just as well as Sherlock.  

I wasn’t joking in the first paragraph when I talked about the dangers of the Canadian climate. The actual weather is the most dangerous thing faced here. It’s quite shocking. I have grown up reading and idolizing Sherlock’s adventures, and this is perhaps the blandest mystery I have ever witnessed. At the most basic level, Sherlock/the detective/the lead character in question must have something to lose. There’s absolutely none of that here. It’s a Scooby  Doo cartoon without the chase scene. The chase scene is like half the story in Scooby-Doo!

The show focuses less on the mystery and more on the comedy derived from Oscar Dove, who keeps reminding us he is not Sherlock and is worried he will do something wrong. This, of course, is not an issue because the audience knows from the beginning that Sherlock is behind the scenes. So there is no real possibility of anything going wrong. Everything is perfect.

Long monologues and too much exposition plague this play. It’s pretty accurate to describe the first act as Oscar Dove sitting and writing correspondence letters to Watson and Sherlock Holmes. Is it impossible to make letter writing interesting? No, I think there are creative ways to establish action during these moments. However, these ways are neither written in the script nor added by the director of this production. I’ve seen it done. Letter writing can be interesting. The director’s job is to look at every moment and ask, “How can I make this worth watching?”

This show was not devoid of good performances. They are apparent from beginning to end. But the show falls apart primarily because of the two leads, Michael Bryant (Oscar Dove) and Gary McCarver (Sherlock/Texas Jack).   McCarver plays his disguised character Texas Jack better than he plays Sherlock. This is probably why he was cast since most of the show Sherlock is in disguise. McCarver does a great job playing a cowboy-type character, fitting quite naturally into the role when he is around.

Bryant is not unskilled, but I feel he was either unprepared for this role or wasn’t given enough time to prep. With the amount of dialogue and no natural breaks during most of the show, it was obvious that he was having trouble getting through the lines.

Connor Hill was wonderful in the role of Busby and played the part naturally with a good energy that made every scene he was in work a lot better. Clohilda (Felicia Marie Leclair) was solid throughout the night and played her character so that you were never quite sure if she was guilty. Though not perfect, Kathryn Leyes Fischer’s performance holds the show together and provides some substance to a weak story.

After watching the El Camino Real production of Sherlock Holmes: The Maple Leaf Murder, I was left with more questions about the production and the story than the actual mystery. Obvious talent does exist, and the will to put on a good show is there, but it does not connect well in their latest showing.


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6.4 Overall
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