Before you watch Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s (LBSC) streaming “Sherlock Holmes: The Blue Carbuncle,” it helps to know that a carbuncle is a red jewel– though this one’s blue– and a crop is a pouch in a goose’s esophagus. Carbuncle and crop are intimately involved in this delightful version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s mystery story, served warm with a healthy dollop of holiday singing and scenery.
As directed by LBSC Artistic Director Brando Cutts, and adapted by Cutts and Joe LoCicero, the play is tailor-made for the holidays. Set in 1891 London between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, famous detective Sherlock Holmes (Mikael Mattsson) and his trusty sidekick Dr. John Watson (Conor Sheehan) must figure out who put the stolen carbuncle in the goose’s carp.
Fortunately, the goose was found along with a bowler hat and– in an extended and amusingly incredulous scene that stretches the very laws of deduction– Holmes is able to determine exactly the kind of man the hat belongs to, including that his wife is mad at him. Now it’s just a matter of Holmes and Watson tracking clues through wintry London to find him.
Along the way, we are treated to Christmas carols and even a saxophone solo along London streets. As designed by Nicole Braucher, the set includes snow, cute shop windows and even a gaggle of geese. Clever lighting and prop manipulations transition us seamlessly between the inside of Holmes’s Baker Street flat and various outside locations.
Costumes (Ramzi Jneid) are historically and holiday appropriate, and blustery sound-effects and Christmas-y music add to the well-paced production’s festive atmosphere.
Also, LBSC seems to have perfected filming its fully-staged plays in the Helen Borgers Theatre.
Close-ups enhance our experience of the story. And there are none of the empty-theatre sound echoes that complicated earlier productions this year, though you may still want to turn on closed-captioning to follow all the accented dialogue.
The cast inhabit their English-accented characters very well. Mattsson’s Holmes is philosophical and arrogantly self-assured, suitably so given how much he can glean from a hat. And Sheehan’s Watson makes an ideal foil– warm, thoughtful and questioning. Eduardo Mora is also well-cast, sympathetic as the emotional and confused potential culprit James Ryder.
All the other actors also play their parts with aplomb, including Dan Novey as two very different characters– the humble owner of the hat and a savvy seller of geese in a London market. Amy Paloma Welch and Yvonne Roberston also play their multiple roles exuberantly, adding to the family-friendly fun.
Kids may be intrigued by Holmes’s brilliant detecting, though parents may occasionally want to pause and explain (family interaction!). Kids and parents might also discuss the ending during this spiritual time of giving and receiving. Cutts describes Sherlock’s holiday mercy toward the end, noting, “We can certainly learn from his example of charity.” But you may also wonder what Holmes means when he says the “solution is its own reward.” Hmm.
Moral quandaries aside, for an enjoyable, locally crafted, non-cloying, holiday diversion of under an hour, all clues point to LBSC’s “Sherlock Holmes: The Blue Carbuncle.”
LBSC’s “Sherlock Holmes: The Blue Carbuncle” is available to stream through Dec. 31. Tickets are $35 per household and can be purchased at lbshakespeare.org