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Theater review: ‘Watson’ at Sacred Fools Theater

August 4, 2011 | 10:05 am

‘Watson’ at Sacred Fools Theater

This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom.

The idea behind writer/director Jaime Robledo’s “Watson” was elementary: turn Sherlock Holmes’ companion and biographer into the hero of an all-new Holmes adventure. Developed in installments, it was also funny and inventive enough to run the gauntlet of the Sacred Fools Theater Company’s 21-week “Serial Killers” competition to become a full-fledged production last year.

“The game’s on the other foot” once more in this limited return engagement, as the loyal and practical Watson (Scott Leggett) tries to keep a dangerously unstable Holmes (Joe Fria) from self-destructing during his “final” case.

The principal cast returns with inspired irreverence and ingenuity. Holmesians will appreciate the inclusion of iconic figures from the Arthur Conan Doyle canon: Holmes’ brother Mycroft (Eric Curtis Johnson), his love interest and intellectual equal, Irene Adler (Rebecca Larsen), and of course his nemesis, Professor Moriarty (Henry Dittman, in a hilarious mix of malevolence and effete decorum). 

Despite some reworking for this remount, the patchwork story still shows its episodic seams. The detective’s famous powers of deduction take a back seat to action sequences, wittily realized with physical dexterity and aided by a quartet of stagehands who become peripheral characters and reconfigure scenes from minimal props (the fistfight atop a speeding train is a hoot).

Robledo freely acknowledges his debt to Nicholas Meyer’s “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution,” with the focus here on Holmes as a paranoid dope fiend whose predilections for logic and cocaine make him a kindred spirit and ideal patient for wisecracking Sigmund Freud (French Stewart). Actually, the classic Holmes-Watson partnership as conceived by Doyle adheres more closely to Carl Jung’s psychological model than to Freud’s, with Holmes embodying the analytical thinking and sensory observation functions, while Watson supplies intuition and sensitivity of feeling. Together they make a whole psyche, and amid all the fast-paced hijinks Robledo’s vision honors that complementary and touching relationship. 

[For the record, 11:11 a.m. Aug. 4: Director Jaime Robledo's first name was incorrect in an earlier version of this review.]

–- Philip Brandes

“Watson,” Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays. Ends Aug. 20. $25. (310) 281-8337 or Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Photo: Joe Fria and Scott Leggett. Credit: Brian Taylor.