At the legendary Pocket Sandwich Theatre, where (usually) merriment is the coin of the realm, you will find Sherlock Holmes on Ice, Ben Schroth’s sequel to Sherlock Holmes vs. Godzilla. A sly, coy, spoof, laced with current topics and colloquialisms, peppered with allusions to the B-Grade Cinema Canon, such as “The elixir of life, at last!” and “Men are fools!” and chock full of spectacularly preposterous episodes (a peddler selling fishsicles on a stick, a cross-dressing boy assistant who somehow manages to avoid even a whiff of kink) Sherlock Holmes on Ice is amusing, ticklish, pleasure. Schroth sends up many pop culture movie cliche’s, but does so with more finesse and restraint than we usually associate with mockery.
The year is 1900 and London is besieged by a fierce blizzard, inexplicably, in the middle of summer. A mysterious character (we will come to know as Igor the Tartar) murders an unfortunate woman in the street, then hands the Paper Boy a note, for the auspicious Sherlock Holmes. Our intrepid investigator has barely had time to process this clue, before the appearance of one Katarina Phypps-Smythington seizes his heart and convinces him to throw caution to the winds. Before they set off for the realms of high adventure, Holmes makes time for some chemical recreation. We are kept apprized of the team’s itinerary by the use of wee cunning puppets (Thank you, Jon-Paul McGowan!) to further illuminate the narrative. It’s not long before Holmes discovers his true nemesis in this cage match of braniacs is none other than Kublai Khan, long assumed to be dead.
Schroth’s comedy content reminds me of the classic, Your Show of Shows, the tone, film director Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise, Down By Law) whose bizarro world of fringe dwellers and night crawlers was always depicted with such quirky, understated wit. You could never detect any irony from the players. Schroth has a great gift for evincing the ridiculous, whether it’s Khan taking phone calls for Genghis Grill or Holmes referencing Dorothy’s final epiphany from The Wizard of Oz.
It’s rare to see such dizzy camp as Jake Shanahan’s tempestuous turn as Kublai Khan, a performance that would put Fu Manchu and Ming the Merciless both to shame. Michael Carl Speck was an inspired casting choice, I think, as the fabled, substance exploiting sleuth. He’s relaxed enough to shift gears from suave erudition to tortured love victim, without a glitch or blink of an eye. His appreciation for the absurd makes him equally believable as a forensic genius or just another poor guy (like the rest of us) in the throes of cruel romance.
I truly enjoyed Ben Schroth’s giddy, semi-topical spoof, with gobs of silly allusions and strangely tantalizing use of androgyny. (I LOVE you Pieman!) Go for the Arctic Amazons, the Eskimo Zombie, Dicky Simpkins, Linus Hamster, Igor the Tartar, Queen Victoria and Prince Edward. “Hey nonny, nonny.”
Pocket Sandwich Theatre presents Sherlock Holmes on Ice, playing (Final Weekend!) September 12tth-27th, 2014. (Performances at 11:15 PM, Friday and Saturday) 5400 East Mockingbird Lane # 119, Dallas, Texas 75206. 214-821-1860. www.pocketsandwich.com
Sherlock Holmes- Michael Speck, Dr. Watson- Jon-Paul McGowan, Mrs. Hudson- Hilary Gregory-Allen, Dicky Simpkins- Margot Potts , Linus Hamster- Stevie Wicks, Katarina Phypps-Smythington- Shannon Rasmussen Schnaible, Kubla Khan/ Moriarty- Jake Shanahan, Igor the Tartar- Jared Seman, Prince/ Queen/ Eskimo Zombie- Joel Frapart, Hortense/ Arctic Amazon- Jeannette “Netty” Brashear
Pie Man/ Arctic Amazon- Erin Singleton, Lestrade/ Eskimo Zombie- Daniel White, Paper Boy/ Arctic Amazon- Hannah Law