PICK! ASR THEATER ~~ Talented Cast Lifts Hillbarn’s “Baskerville”

By Joanne Engelhardt

You can count on one hand theatrical productions where the supporting cast is by far the best part of the play. Add Hillbarn Theatre’s current production of Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery to that short list.

Ludwig is known for his comedic work including Lend Me a Tenor (which won two Tony Awards), Crazy for You, Moon Over Buffalo and Shakespeare in Hollywood.

…several production team members deserve a shout-out..

At under two hours with one intermission, this efficient production meticulously directed by Leslie Martinson, moves so quickly that it’s sometimes all an audience can do to watch the three versatile supporting actors — playing 40+ different characters — rush out and then return in slightly altered costumes as other characters. There must be several dressers backstage to assist with so many quick changes!

A mysterious stranger on the moors (George Psarras*) *Actors appear courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association. Photo Credit: Mark Kitaoka

Ted Zoltan (Actor 1), Darrien Cabreana (Actor 2) and especially Alicia M.P. Nelson (Actor 3) are the warp-and-woof of Baskerville, despite the rather annoying tagline which says it’s a “Sherlock Holmes mystery.” Nelson uses a dozen or so different accents (both upper and lower-class British), Scottish, Irish and who knows what else, to steal the show from George Psarras (Sherlock Holmes) and John Watson (Michael Champlin).

Champlin, at least, has more to do (and far more stage time than Psarras). He deservedly garnered a huge sympathetic reaction from Friday’s opening night audience when he intentionally fell flat on his back with a resounding thud!

It’s useless to attempt to describe the storyline, although perhaps anyone who’s read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original mystery The Hound of the Baskervilles might have an easier time of it. If not, it’s best to just go with the flow and not worry when something doesn’t make sense or when an actor changes from a landowner to a pauper in a few seconds by dashing out one of the four archways, switching into a different hat or scarf, and walking back in as a different person.

(L to R) Watson (Michael Champlin) and Holmes (George Psarras*) learn never to question a cabbie (Alicia M.P. Nelson) — *Actors appear courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association. Photo Credit: Tracy Martin

The first hint that something has gone awry is the introduction of a troupe of traveling artists who are touring England in a production of the original tale. Alas! All but five of the actors have missed the train – and only a few trunks of costumes and props have made it on the train as well. Their next stop: Barnhill-on-Foster (wink wink) in Hampshire, England, circa 1892

Despite a performance by Psarras which this reviewer found  a bit wanting, the other four players made sure Hillbarn audiences got to chuckle a lot and go home feeling that they’ve had a jolly good time.

(L to R) Holmes (George Psarras*) and Watson (Michael Champlin) are hot on the case, interviewing Actor 1 (Ted Zoldan) and Actor 2 (Darrien Cabreana). *Actors courtesy Actors’ Equity Assoc. Photo Credit: Tracy Martin

Several production team members deserve a shout-out for superior effort: costume designer Nolan Miranda is one; ditto scenic designer Kevin Davies and sound designer Jeff Mockus.

Steve Muterspauch, Hillbarn’s new executive artistic director, can justifiably be proud of Hillbarn’s first production of the season. Discounts are available for anyone under 18 as well as seniors and groups of 10 or more.


Aisle Seat Executive Reviewer Joanne Engelhardt is a Peninsula theatre writer and critic. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact: joanneengelhardt@comcast.net


Book byKen Ludwig
Directed byLeslie Martinson
Producing CompanyHillbarn Theatre
Production DatesThru Oct 22nd
Production Address1285 E Hillsdale Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404
Telephone(659) 349-6411
Tickets$30-$62 (plus discounts)
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK?YES!