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The Hound of the Baskervilles gets a faithful and atmospheric staging

Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1902 thriller is one of those classics most people are more familiar with from their often tarted-up screen adaptations than the original. In this intimate City Lit Theater staging, director-adapter Terry McCabe returns to the source, following both the spirit and the letter of Doyle’s novel. McCabe employs the chamber theater format, in which a literary work is brought to the stage with minimal physical action and design and maximum fidelity to the text. The emphasis here is on words, mostly those spoken by the story’s narrator, Dr. John Watson, chronicler of the adventures he shared with his friend, Victorian “consulting detective” Sherlock Holmes. In Hound, Watson recounts how he and Holmes (principally Holmes) unraveled the mystery surrounding the death of a Devonshire aristocrat whose family was supposedly cursed by a demonic hound from hell—and prevented the murder of the aristocrat’s heir.

As in City Lit’s 2014 Holmes and Watson, Holmes and Watson are effectively embodied by James Sparling (whose aquiline profile helps make him a ringer for the famous Sidney Paget drawings of Holmes in the tale’s original magazine serialization) and Adam Bitterman, whose delivery is key to the production’s alternately macabre and wryly humorous tone. The supporting cast is solid and the design work is atmospheric. So is the incidental music—composed by Ben Chang and played live by violinist Eugene Kaler, who also provides the eerie howl of the hellhound. Good dog!  v

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