The North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL) performed a rock musical, The Uncanny Appearance of Sherlock Holmes, at the Palace Theatre on Saturday night.
The show was well attended by members of the Hamilton community and Colgate students. Beginning loudly with a drum roll, this untraditional detective story featured a combination of acrobatics, rock music performed live by the cast and humor. The cross dressing Watson both acted in and narrated the show, often accompanied by an accordion. The remaining cast, excepting, of course, Sherlock Holmes, switched between roles as characters, musicians and props.
The cast band included typical rock instruments: guitar, bass and drums, as well as the accordion, a recorder and Holmes himself as lead vocalist.
Eerily lit with pink, orange and turquoise lights, the stage was sparsely furnished, aside from the instruments, so the cast elaborately leapt, rolled and tumbled to create the illusion of furnishings. They also often used one another for chairs or tables, in place of traditional props. This simplistic set up gave the actors more room for acrobatics, as well as making the transition between scenes instantaneous.
This play was written and directed by co-founder and artistic director of NACL Brad Krumholz and is not your average detective story. Krumholz plays with the idea that there may not be a single correct reading of every crime scene by pitting Sherlock Holmes against Jaqueline Derrida, an American fan of Holmes, and a detective hired by one of Holmes’ suspects in the murder of a well-known scientist.
The unusual behavior of many of the characters added to the oddness of the mystery. Not all of suspects acted suspiciously. The line between good and bad guys blurred, as it was not clear who should be a suspect in the murder. Belle Whittaker, the murdered scientist’s assistant, was one of the most awkward characters, but there was ambiguity around whether or not the evidence at the crime scene could point to her. This was one of the many aspects of the investigation on which Holmes and Derrida differed. Even Holmes became a suspect during the course of the investigation.
Unlike most traditional Sherlock Holmes stories, this mystery was not solved neatly or conclusively. Krumholz’s untraditional ending questions every conclusion Holmes or Derrida made during the course of their investigation. The band ends with another song, in which the musicians trade instruments and Sherlock Holmes does not appear on stage.
During intermission, attendees gathered on the second floor café for hot beverages, dessert, discussion and socializing. At the end of intermission, Program Coordinator for the Palace Theatre Patricia vonMechow called everyone back into the theatre for a raffle. The winner received tickets for an upcoming ONStage! production.
The ONStage! series at the Palace Theatre is a new program, according to Patricia vonMechow. NACL is just one of the groups who will perform at the Palace this semester.
“The idea is to bring in live theatre that everyone can afford,” said vonMechow.
She also said that they have had a great response to this new series, admitting as many as 150 people to many shows.
“We’re getting people from as far as Poughkeepsie,” vonMechow said, but admitted, “The biggest obstacle is educating the community.”
The Uncanny Appearance of Sherlock Holmes is just one of the performances in this series, which includes a variety of performing arts: musicals, dancing and comedy. Performing groups are local, regional and national, but vonMechow says that above all the purpose is to find quality acts that the public will enjoy.
NACL is one of the regional groups in the series. Based out of Highland, NY, NACL is an experimental theatre group. The group creates and performs original pieces, as well as producing the Catskill Festival of New Theatre.
For information about upcoming performances in the ONStage! series, visit www.palacetheatre.com.