Charles Marowitz's superb spoof of the Sherlock Holmes stories turns the tables on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective, putting the famed mystery-solver in the hot seat, which looks suspiciously like the dead seat. The high concept puts Dr. Watson (a credible and creditable Steve Gustafson) in the driver's seat. After all the cases where he has played second fiddle to the renowned crime solver, taking constant guff from the brainiac super-sleuth, Watson plots his deadly revenge: the one case Holmes will be in no position to solve. Gustafson is delightful as the reluctant underdog in the investigative team, consistently outwitted by his supercilious partner but finally becoming mad as hell and not taking it anymore.
Stephen Van Dorn brilliantly tackles the suave, overweening, toplofty Holmes. He's possibly a bit young for the role but is true to his character. Brenda Ballard creates a zaftig, dotty housekeeper, quite in keeping with the retro-farce quality of the silly-funny play. As the classically dimwitted Scotland Yard regular Inspector Lestrade, Don Robb contributes very little to solving the mystery but a great deal toward ratcheting up the laugh meter. Teresa Bisson is capably pretty, if not always audible, as the inevitable woman of mystery that every detective story needs.
Jeremy Lewit works director's miracles on Tim Farmer's stunningly designed set, perfectly reproducing the study of a well-heeled doctor with a yen for mystery and a bit of madness. Lewit's utilization of the Baker Street Irregulars (Marcos Esteves, James Ledesma, Michael Tauzin, and Bisson) as stagehands with slightly shifty moves is a brilliant and crafty invention, adding much to the production.
Presented by Actors Co-op at the Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Hollywood. Oct. 16–Nov. 22. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m. (323) 462-8460, ext. 300. www.actorsco-op.org.