Notorious master detective Sherlock Holmes comes out of retirement to solve a case involving a desirable, self-contained young woman and one of her former suitors. Although the premise is introduced 40 minutes into this 90 minute piece, this one-man show is brilliantly acted, exceptionally written, and engages the intellect from start to finish. ................................................................................Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
Dr. John H. Watson, trusted friend and biographer to Sherlock Holmes, was an almost constant presence in the 19th-century fictional detective's life. In Victor L. Cahn's Sherlock Solo, Cahn loses the sidekick and stretches his legs in a role that he seems to have been born to play. Crafted in the manner of a fascinating lecture, Cahn regales us with a case that was intriguing enough to pull him out of retirement, and beguiling enough to almost go unsolved.
Cahn first captures our attention by playing a beautiful Bach piece on violin, introducing one of his many talents as well as a prop that later becomes an integral part of the plot. From there, he takes us on a tour of Sherlock's many professional endeavors, from failed virtuoso to theatrical actor (a segue into a Richard III impersonation is of note) until he arrives at the sciences, the foundation for his work in crime. Having finally found his niche, he attacks it voraciously as he did with his other pursuits, but this time, his efforts flourish into a full-fledged career. His facility for crime work becomes so notorious that he amasses many cases and clients and almost renders the police department null. After an admirable and lengthy career, he retires with the knowledge that no other detective has rivaled his successes. And for Sherlock, being the best is the only state of being there is.
While basking in his achievements, Sherlock tells the story about a previously undisclosed case that pulls him out of retirement. In the absence of Dr. Watson, a striking American young woman with poise and self-assurance named Madeline Lortimer pays him a visit with a proposition. She asks him to determine the authenticity of a violin owned by a former romantic interest who is intervening in her current engagement to another man. The violin, if proven a fake, will be key in discrediting him and reinstating her peace. Immediately taken by this "supreme Machiavelli", Sherlock takes the case, never imagining that the road to what should be an open and shut case would be filled with so many surprises.
Director Eric Parness guides Cahn through a delightful performance that is also challenging and rich with entertainment. Cahn, a charming performer with exceptional diction, commands the stage with confidence and a hint of snark. The writing by Cahn is a scholastic achievement in itself that may be too lofty for some audience members, but those who are learned will be arrested by the wit. Cahn's Sherlock is pompous but not offputting, and controlled, but not dry. Cahn's impressions are inspired as he zips from male to female characters and seedy to upstanding ones. All of the production elements are strong and work for the better good of the show.
With a discernment sharper than forensic science, Sherlock Holmes is legendary for solving the toughest cases. But with the boom of crime TV shows such as CSI and Law & Order, it's easy to perceive Sherlock Holmes as antiquated. Cahn brings him to the stage, fresher, livelier and more formidable than ever.
Through February 2nd.
Tickets: $20. (212) 279-4200
The Kirk @ Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street (between 9th & 10th Avenues)