Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Big Trouble in Little Bohemia

Amateur theater productions are best for amateur theater goers.

And I don't mean that pejoratively.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Kalamazoo Civic Theater's adaptation of Sherlock Holmes last Wednesday. Whenever I leave the "K Bubble" I almost always see a band, rarely a film, but never a play.

Thus, if I were to review the Civic's Sherlock Holmes, I would have to do my research. Besides reading up on Sherlock Holmes, as it is one of the missing pieces of my knowledge in Imperial Britain's culture, I would have to read more than just McLeese (including, but not limited to, the NYTimes A&E reviews). As I am an amateur theater goer, if you can even call me that, I would not compare this adaption to other adaptions of Sherlock. I would have to familiarize myself with the Civic Theater--and mention that the productions are primarily powered by volunteers.

I would have to review a theater review differently from a film review, though, as I learned from McLeese, I would still go with my gut.

Yet, despite my lacking theater background I would be extremely perceptive in my analysis of the set design, costumes, dialogue, and acting. As the emphasis in theater is placed on the actor, rather than director, I would pay more attention to whether or not the actors felt convincing.

For one, the off-stage sound should have been much louder. The lighting, on the other hand, mesmerized me, especially in the instances where Sherlock and Dr. Watson would be in the foreground and another character up the stairs, placed in the background. The light was on cue with the dialogue, such as in a scene involving smoke (no spoilers here).

The blocking of Irene was fantastic--and I'm not just trying to get an "A." Her motions were as bold as the character's personality. The actor playing Dr. Watson, Craig Sloan, felt natural. Though his narrative and delivery was slow at times, he linked the audience with the plot while the stage crew adapted the scene. The costumes were convincing, though the accents were not. With that said, I found the actor portraying the henchman with the Cockney accent to be one of the most convincing actors in the production.

Keep in mind: these actors are volunteers, and it's amazing they're putting themselves up on stage just because they want to. Avid fan of Sherlock or a ripe theater goer, the Kalamazoo Civic produced a very entertaining performance.

If I were really reviewing a play I would make sure I've done research, I become familiar with theater vocabulary, I would read more (and pay more attention to) theater reviews in the Times, and I would have expectations.

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