Sherlock Holmes (Jason Steele) ponders his latest case with his brother Mycroft Holmes (Matthew Taylor) in the background during a scene from The Second Stain, currently playing at the Nickle Studio. David Dinan photo

Exceptional performances fire up latest Sherlock installment

The Second Stain runs through to Sept. 22nd at the Nickle Studio

The latest installment of the Central Alberta Theatre-produced Sherlock Holmes series, The Second Stain, is perhaps the most solid, polished and engaging performance yet.

First off, Jason Steele has been simply terrific in each production – a first rate series adapted and directed by Albertus Koett which was launched last fall with A Study in Scarlet. Additional productions have followed this past winter and in June. They are slated to run through to the end of the 2020 season – a monumental undertaking by Koett and his talented cast and crew.

So far, each production has been part of an over-arching storyline that Koett has and is fashioning from the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And so far, each one has offered audiences an engaging evening of superb acting built on a really impressive foundation of Koett’s ability to adapt Conan Doyle’s stories into seamless and engaging shows.

But with The Second Stain, this show – which draws on source material from The Second Stain, The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans and elements from The Final Problem – is both a continuation from the last plays but it’s also something of a fresh exploration into some new territory as well.

It also provides much more room for Steele to really showcase his dramatic strengths.

Without his partner Watson, and the disappearance of Mrs. Hudson, Holmes serves as both narrator and of course all the more the center of what unfolds onstage in The Second Stain.

This of course is more demanding on Steele, but he is certainly up to the task.

He’s growing more and more comfortable, charismatic and familiar with his take on the character of Holmes. I’ve said it before, but watching Steele reminds audiences that there really couldn’t be a better man to tackle this iconic role – Steele is a study in capturing the subtleties of a given character. And with Sherlock, there’s plenty to explore as he dives into the intricacies of this irresistible, unfolding drama.

The Second Stain also features a particularly large cast in what is a relatively short production, but the pace of the show and the interactions flow naturally.

Another character who is brought much more to the forefront this time around is Inspector Lestrade, who is played by Trysten Luck. As with Steele, Luck had much more room to showcase his talents as an actor with more stage time and a meatier script. Other stand-outs include Matthew Taylor as the bold and imposing but always fun to watch Mycroft Holmes and the cunning Professor Moriarty, masterfully played by Lee Weselak in what is again a superb casting choice.

Perry Mills does a strong turn as Commander Bellinger, as does the always charming Nicole Leal as the mysterious Irene Adler.

Of course, an excellent crew powers much of what we see onstage as well, including Gwen McCagg with her costume design and light designer Braden Guido in particular.

Ultimately, however, Koett is in many ways the ‘star of the show’. Without his commitment to adapting these really superb stories that draw so richly from the Conan Doyle collection, we wouldn’t have these productions to not only enjoy currently but to also look forward to for months to come. Koett, who is also a really strong actor in his own right, is truly showcasing a skill in script writing and adaptation that is striking, not to mention his obvious talent for bringing out the best in a large and diverse cast.

The Second Stain runs through to Saturday at the Nickle Studio.

Next up in the series are The Sherlock Holmes One Acts which run Feb. 21st-23rd. Tickets can be purchased online at tickets.blackknightinn.ca.

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