For all that I love to go to the theater, it’s rare that I get invitations to go with other people, especially fully fledged “Here’s a particular show that I want to see and a date and everything” kind of stuff – unless it’s one of my Twitter friends with a spare to something. So when a friend of mine who lives out of town proposed a Saturday trip to the lovely Wilton’s Music hall to see a show by Spymonkey – well, I said yes without even looking up the details. I’d seen their Hound of the Baskervilles at the Duchess Theater in the distant past (apparently before I started this blog) and enjoyed it enough for it to burn its way into my mind for seven long years, waiting for this very moment to pipe up and say, “Oh yes, Spymonkey! They’re kind of funny, aren’t they! Let’s do it.” And so we did.
Now, Wilton’s is a bit of a stretch to get to but an utterly charming venue with a nice bar and great vibe once you get there. And this show, with a quirky three piece band and four very silly actors, seems to be well suited to the venue (and the occasionally shit sight lines don’t seem to be much of an issue). The show is set in Victorian times, in the Sherlock Holmes period – why, by gum, the Mrs Hudson of the title is actually Sherlock Holmes’ landlady – so the costuming and occasional music hall bits seemed to fit the atmosphere very well. The gag is that we are going to watch Sherlock Holmes solve some mysteries, sometimes with Watson, sometimes without, and occasionally with the assistance of random other people who are clearly one of the same four actors wearing a different costume. The actors are all having a good time and the audience was occasionally roaring with laugher – they were well up for the evening.
I, however, found myself a bit left behind by the whole thing. I didn’t get the second joke (a bit with Karl Marx singing something in German apparently from a 70s British TV show – passed right over my head), I was actually a bit upset when Watson was moping about Holmes being abusive to him, and the pattersong was done too quick for me to follow along. However, by the time the final mystery appeared – just how does a virgin get pregnant – I was having enough of a good time allow for a substantial suspension of disbelief as Holmes and crew made their way back 2000 years in time. I loved the arguments between God and the angel Gabriel, and was completely amused by Gabriel’s lascivious attraction to Mary, who had apparently gone without much physical attention in her life and seemed like she was likely to have none in the future – touched by an angel indeed! When God really chewed out Gabriel for behaving inappropriately, my sympathy was entirely with Gabriel, who at least recognized that Mary has a right to have pleasure no matter how much she was going to go down in history as a baby making machine. Go Mary! Go Gabriel! And go Spymonkey for making the most blasphemous play I’ve ever seen. Made me proud to be in a country where people weren’t walking around going, “HARRUMPH I’ve just been insulted” or, er, protesting or, um, setting the building on fire. So while the rest of the evening was a bit limp, the show ended like a rocket, BANG BANG mystery solved! It gave a whole new twist to the turn “getting into the Christmas spirit.”
(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, December 6, 2014. It continues through December 31st.)