Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure was not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was written in 2007 by playwright Steven Dietz, who based the script off an 1899 play by American actor William Gillette, which, in turn, was based on two of Doyle’s stories. You don’t have to be a detective to figure out that this convoluted path leads to a watered-down version of Doyle’s classic character.
Deitz’s play, being presented by the Footlight Players, is entertaining enough — it even won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Mystery Play in 2007. The drama centers around an incriminating photograph of opera singer Irene Adler with the bumbling King of Bohemia, both characters from Doyle’s story “A Scandal in Bohemia.” The king is now engaged to marry a princess and is afraid of being blackmailed. Holmes’ task is to reclaim the photograph, and in the process, he falls in love with Adler. At the same time, his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty (from Doyle’s story “The Final Problem”) uses the opportunity to attempt to capture his adversary.
The action is slow and predictable. What we’re lacking is Doyle’s smart, signature plot twists and the element of danger — Holmes’ rivals, especially Moriarty, aren’t remotely threatening. What we gain, unfortunately, is the awkward romance between Holmes and Adler. The focus of The Final Adventure isn’t so much on the adventure as it is on the relationships between the characters.
The cast is made up of mostly College of Charleston graduates, and the play certainly feels a bit like a school production thanks to fumbled lines, awkward accents, over-acting, and laughable fight scenes. Holmes is played by Bill Harris, who looks more like a dashing Colin Firth than our familiarly pale coke addict — he seems almost too good-looking and wholesome for the role. Christian Self is charming as Dr. Watson, despite regularly tripping over his lines. Jessica Colie McClellan simpers as Irene Adler, though she struggles with pitch; she yells her lines throughout most of the play. And Noah Smith is over the top evil as Professor Moriarty. More comical than menacing, we expect him to start twirling his mustache at any moment. Director Robbie Thomas is also a CofC grad. This is the third production he’s directed for the Footlights this season, including Frost/Nixon and The Altruists.
The Final Adventure was added to the tail end of the Footlight Player’s 78th season, and it feels a bit like an afterthought. That said, anyone looking for simple summer entertainment (especially kids) might enjoy it. We’ll continue to look ahead to the company’s promising 79th season, which starts in late August.