Hound of the Baskervilles: Spoof turns Sherlock Holmes tale on it’s ear for laughs at Public Theatre

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LEWISTON — For nonstop laughs with three extremely talented actors, a seat at The Public Theatre is the place to be for performances of the “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” It’s a side-splitting spoof of the Sherlock Holmes thriller opening Jan. 25

This send-up of the popular spine-tingler turns the tale of an ancient family curse and a mysterious hound from hell inside out.

“We struck gold with the comic team of Michael Frederic and Dan Matisa and have reunited them in this production,” said director Janet Mitchko. Frederic and Matisa delighted TPT audiences in last year’s production of “Around the World in 80 Days.”

Mitchko said this show’s comedy will remind everyone of great TV and movie teams like Abbott and Costello and Harvey Korman with Tim Conway.

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Frederic will be playing Sherlock Holmes, as well as five other characters, including a mysterious Spanish woman who becomes the love interest of Sir Henry Baskerville. The role of Sir Henry and five others will be played by Matisa.

Playing the role of Dr. Watson will be actor J.T. O’Connor, who has appeared at The Public Theatre in “The Nerd,” “Rough Crossing,” and as Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” He was seen most recently on television in “The Good Wife” and “One Life to Live.”

Mitchko, who is also TPT’s co-artistic director, said directing this comedy has been pure delight.

She said, “Every day I go to work and get to laugh ridiculously hard with some of the funniest, most talented comic actors I know, and my job is to ask, ‘How do we make it funnier?’”

The show’s spontaneity is going to make every performance a bit different. Mitchko compared the comic competition among the three actors to a trapeze act without a net.

“These actors come up with some of the quickest wit I’ve ever seen,” she said. “The sum of the parts is better than the individual performances, and when this kind of comedy is done right, the payoff is great.”

Mitchko said “Hound” is done in the style of “The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged).” A three-man theatrical troupe sets out to tour the country with a version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1902 book, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” However, given the company’s low-budget, this rag-tag group must portray not only Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but a cavalcade of 13 loony and sinister characters.

Mitchko said the TPT production is the Maine premiere of “Hound.” It has played to critical acclaim in England, but this new comic version by British authors Steven Canny and John Nicholson is just beginning to get American exposure.

“It is going to be huge,” Mitchko predicted. “Theatre doesn’t come much sillier than this,” she said, adding that “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is the perfect show to invite a newcomer to live theater to see.

Set designer Jennifer Madigan is creating the moors of England, with the support of lighting designer Bart Garvey, costume designer Jonna Klaiber and sound designer Neil James.

“The Hound of The Baskervilles” opens Friday, Jan. 25, at The Public Theatre. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays, Jan. 25, and Feb. 1, and on Thursday, Jan. 31; at 8 p.m. on Saturdays, Jan. 26 and Feb. 2, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays, Jan. 27 and Feb. 3. An additional Saturday matinee is scheduled for 2 p.m. Feb. 2.

For tickets, call The Public Theatre box office at 782-3200 or visit the website at www.thepublictheatre.org.

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