Elementary, my dear Watson

"Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt. 2B" is a hilarious, dark comedy about detective work told from a woman's perspective. Allen Community College Theatre will offer performances at 7:30 tonight through Saturday at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.

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October 6, 2022 - 2:02 PM

Nautianna Goforth, as Sherlock Holmes, meets her new roommate, Dr. Joan Watson played by Maddie Hodgden in “Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt. 2B.” Allen Community College Theatre will present the hilarious dark comedy at 7:30 tonight through Saturday at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

“The game is afoot.” Get ready for a wild run.

Allen Community College Theatre offers a hilarious, modern reinvention of the classic detective story in “Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt. 2B.” The play will be performed at 7:30 tonight through Saturday at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.

It’s an empowering and darkly comic tale about complex, clever women who solve a complicated puzzle filled with cyber crime, revenge porn, smoke bombs, sexual tension, betrayal and, of course, murrrrrder (Da. Da. Dummmm.)

Allen’s Nautianna Goforth is delightful as she portrays the exuberant Sherlock “Shirley” Holmes, who welcomes the easily exasperated Dr. Joan Watson as her new roommate. Goforth’s lanky flexibility lends itself to physical comedy.

Maddie Hodgden, as Watson, is the perfect foil for Goforth’s frenetic and pretentious charm. Hogden delivers just the right notes of irritation, hiding an underlying sense of pain and trauma.

Mariah Stackhouse as the landlady, Mrs. Hudson, seems to relish her role as she cheerfully introduces the two, embellishing Holmes’s exploits with a great deal of flattery. 

The setting, it should be noted, is an elaborate and eclectic apartment with garish wallpaper, clutter everywhere and a skeleton wearing a horned Viking helmet. Home sweet home. As the scenes change, it’s easily and impressively disguised. 

Watson quickly gets sucked into Holmes’s latest mystery when Lestrade, a police detective played by an eager Joseph Leach, asks for help solving a suspicious death. His boyish enthusiasm gives way to frustration as the trio examines the crime scene, with Holmes and Watson climbing into a clawfoot bathtub to study the corpse.

The victim’s widow, a very versatile Emily Ator, is no challenge for the ace detective. Ator gets to showcase a range of emotions, from grief to the pain of betrayal and finally, murderous anger.

The murder is soon solved… or is it?

Holmes believes greater forces are leading them toward a mastermind, perhaps someone even more clever than she.

Enter a dangerously outraged Austin Morris as a southern American billionaire and social media mogul, who is being blackmailed by the “lady of the night” Irene Adler, played with sizzling sensuality by Molly Comfort. 

The seductive Irene seems to have Holmes under her spell as the adventure winds its way toward an intricate climax where virtually no one is who they seem and everyone seems to have an ulterior motive.

And, just as Holmes suspects a larger force is at work, so does the play’s riotous humor hide subtle truths and trauma. A rare serious moment touches on the struggle of medical professionals during the pandemic. Even the vulgar Irene shows moments of feminine vulnerability. There are digs at social media, socio-economic structures and the dark underworld of the internet. 

THE PLAY is the debut of ACC’s new theater director, Tricia Stogsdill.

Tricia StogsdillCourtesy photo

An Allen alum, Stogsdill studied with longtime instructors Tony Terri Piazza. She then earned her bachelor’s degree in theater from Emporia State University, and her master’s degree in theatrical design and production from the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music.

After graduation, Stogsdill worked across the nation in professional theater, including at the Tony Award-winning Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Minn.

That’s where she met the playwright Kate Hamill who wrote “Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt. 2B.” She saw the world premier of the play at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre this past spring.

“It was such a joyous time in the theater. It’s innovative and modern but just classic at the same time,” she said. “It’s a laugh riot. Everybody knows Sherlock Holmes, but you’ve never seen it like this.”

Before joining Allen’s faculty this fall, Stogsdill worked as associate professor of theater at Neosho County Community College. 

She wanted the play to be her first production at Allen, but it was difficult to get the rights because the play was so new. She was able to secure the performance because she knew Hamill, the playwright. 

Most of the students involved with the play are in their first year at ACC. They’re a young cast, but very diverse. 

“They’re wonderful students who come from all over,” she said.

For example, the stage manager, Titlope Oyelami, is from Nigeria.

“English is not even her first language, but she’s done a wonderful job bringing everyone together,” Stogsdill said.

This particular play is serendipitous in that way. 

“What this play says is that we don’t always have to have the answers, as long as we have a few good people on our side and a lot of laughs on the journey.”

TICKETS are available at bowluscenter.org or at the door.

Tickets cost $7 for adults and $5 for students and children. 

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