With Ken Ludwig’s BASKERVILLE, Strauss again steps into historical figures— this time it is Sherlock Holmes, arguably the best known detective in British fiction. One wonders why he is still around. After all, he dates back to a short story “A Study in Scarlet” written by a struggling physician–Arthur Conan Doyle, published in a magazine as a sort of a throw-away feature in “Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887″ after being turned down by several publishers. He received 25 pounds for the story and, even though he did not like Sherlock, wrote more and was soon able to quit the medical field and support himself and his family by writing. Holmes’ instant popularity led to a further 56 short stories and 4 novels by Conan Doyle over the next 40 years. Even though he always said that he did not like his hero, his hero made one of the wealthiest writers in Britain and earned him a place in upper crust society.
Why do we like Sherlock? He is certainly not the sort of person our mothers would approve of, he was decadent in a time when decadence was more or less in fashion, he certainly was not polite and not tolerant of other people’s ideas, he was single-minded as he became absorbed in a case. Critics say those are the reasons we like him– and he solves the crime and takes us along for the ride to see the gory details, while keeping his astute observations secret until “the right time.” We join him, up close and personal, at a murder scene – fascinated rather than reviled.
On a personal level, Sherlock also fascinates. He can solve any crime, but he remains socially inept and tactless – traits which actually endear him to his sympathetic and admiring readers and viewers. His friendship with Watson is also intriguing. They argue and spat, but their loyalty to each other is guaranteed.His association with Dr. Watson is one that has caused many speculations, but as we learn with Sherlock, one never knows what he does not want known.
From the humble beginnings as a short story in the Christmas annual, Sherlock Holmes went on to be a juggernaut of the entertainment world. In addition to the many adaptations of Doyle’s works, there have been numerous Sherlock stories written by other writers to capitalize on the fame. Sherlock has become a multi-million dollar business. Ken Ludwig, a master of comedy, has taken Doyle’s famous 1902 story about murder in the moors of Dorsetshire, and given it a series of interesting twists to add comedic touches. Holmes and Watson must brave the desolate moors before a family curse dooms its newest heir, a Texan come to England to claim his estate. A dizzying web of clues, silly accents, disguises, and deceit confront our heros as five actors deftly portray more than 40 characters.
Critics agree that “Baskerville” is a celebration of theater itself, a madcap homage to the artifice and inventiveness – and sheer unflagging energy – required to bring a play to life.
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