Sunday, February 7, 2016

Review: 'Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood'

I say, Watson, is that basically good evening at Hedgerow Theatre a bit ragged 'round the edges? Inquirer theater critic Howard Shapiro reviews.

Review: 'Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood'

Blog Image
Chance Dean (left), Maryruth Stine and Dave Polgar in "Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood" at Hedgerow Theatre.

By Howard Shapiro

From: Mr. Sherlock Holmes
To: Dr. Watson

I say, my dear Watson, we can make immediate deductions from our visit to Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood at the indubitably pleasant Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley — you know, just down the lane from the county town they call Media.

First off, the play by Paul Giovanni — the same one that featured Glenn Close as the female lead on Broadway in 1978 and Charlton Heston as myself in that 1991 telly-movie — is loose as the ashes in my pipe bowl. It’s based, somewhat, on Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel about our exploits, The Sign of the Four, and liberties were taken.

I’m not certain, Watson, that liberty here is a grand idea. As you know, the story’s about a woman seeking us out to help her poor dear father, who's come under the heavy influence of opium and whose life is endangered because of a terrible secret about an incident in India and curse that followed it. Giovanni’s telling is, shall we say, convoluted, involving subplots about a never-seen mother and a pigmy. If you and I went to the play without already knowing our own story, I’m not sure we could fully follow it.

Yet even though I’m exhaustive (and exhausting), I’m not sure the twists would keep us from being entertained. Yes, I’m also clairvoyant — by the way, Watson, you’re about spill that sherry, wherever you are —yet even I could not foretell that despite the production’s deficiencies, our tale plays out with many fine moments on Zoran Kovcic’s dark-mood set. We get a few laughs, and when we get action, the show works well.

Still, Watson, was I ever so smug about myself (or so young-looking) as that handsome bloke Chance Dean, who portrayed me? And was my cadence ever so awkward? Do I muddy my lines by speaking so quickly when I was make the points in many of my sentences? You yourself got an all-around treatment from Dave Polgar, who has appeared before in these annual autumn Hedgerow mysteries. Clean cut, that fellow. And always amazed at my prowess for solution. Just like you.

Really, Watson, were our British accents all over the place, like those of the large cast? I think not. And did we make exits from our chapters with gusto, or did we lumber out, as some of these actors? Lumbering would never allow us to maintain the rhythm of our melodrama.

Even so, didn't you like the luster Maryruth Stine brings to the role of our desperate client, and Jeffrey Lanigan, as the bumbling British inspector? Director Jared Reed has some good ideas about staging, Watson, and he also created the light and sound.

My sense of deduction tells me there’d not been enough rehearsal by Friday night’s opening. Too often, the affair had a halting quality, very unlike us. If we’re involved, you know, everything is polished. That’s … elementary, my dear Watson.

Contact Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727 or


Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood: Through Nov. 25 at Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Road, Rose Valley. Tickets: $25-$32. Information: 610-565-4211 or

We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

Philly Stage
Latest Videos:
Also on
letter icon Newsletter