So the nut to crack is why this Sherlock and not any other? Or why not this Sherlock and every other (or a particular favorite).
Escaping the reality of Arthur Conan Doyle’s prolific nature is nigh impossible; from novel to graphic novel to stage to film to kid’s show (anyone remember “Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century?”), poor Sherlock, and buddy Watson, have been tossed around the realms of fiction more times than I care to count--or can count, for that matter.
Where does this fit in with a review of “Sherlock Holmes: The Last Adventure”? Whether or not to compare the play to modern television adaptations of the detective, such as “Sherlock” or “Elementary,” I think is easier than saying whether or not it should be compared to television. While many comment that the stage’s proximity to television is only a “leap away,” usually a negative step--which way depends on the critic--a distinction needs to be made between Sherlock in New York or Watson in 21st century London.
The Last Adventure simply doesn’t occur in either of those places. It is a classic representation, or traditional, much more in line with the old PBS Masterpiece Theatre pieces--”Hound of The Baskervilles” and the like--than anything else that comes to my memory. So keep Benedict Cumberbatch and Lucy Liu in your Netflix queue and out of the review.
This leads to required research to find out other stage productions Sherlock and his cast of witty characters have been written into, as those would be more apt comparisons. Or find television productions that took the old tale and transposed it. Preferably though, I’d want to stick to stage (unless there was absolutely nothing else available), as a rapid drop into a film vs. theatre debate could develop about a character who didn’t originate in either.
That being said, comfort can be found comparing it to the original textual stories it is based on--which can be assumed are “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “Reichenbach Falls.” The dry wit and humor of the books are more in line with the atmosphere of “The Final Adventure,” along with being a “fair” reference point for what the play was invoking.
With all that nastiness out of the way, the ability to start taking the play apart as a performance in its own right: at the Civic, for a Mid-West audience, professional standards as opposed to amateur (community) theatre, the blocking, the acting, the sometimes gorgeous lighting design with sometimes lackluster stage design, etc.More specifically: a critique is formed around whether or not the Sherlock of this production was re imagining the old tales or rehashing them. Was Lady Aderlee an accessory, love interest, or a strong female lead? Did her position on stage reinforce stereotypes, serve to separate her from the cast, or generally make here similar to the one other female character in primarily male-oriented show? How did the lighting, the letter-reading, serve to add or distract from the mystery? Hell, did the ensemble even sound British?
These are the sort of questions I’d ask--after escaping the adaptation dilemma.