If memory serves, a lot of folks became awfully heated over what Charles Marowitz did to Sherlock Holmes when his "Sherlock's Last Case" opened in the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival. The opium business was one thing (Conan Doyle himself was a strong believer in character defects), but for the asexual sleuth to snuggle up with an attractive, clever woman was beyond the pale. Holmes knew that once he lost his heart, he lost his powers of detection as well.
On the other hand, that is likely the joke in the title. We're expecting a Holmes tale where he finally meets his match, and we get something else. This is a Holmes who reaches his dark potential, but we don't see it in Thomas F. Bradac's Grove Theatre revival.
The problem is elementary. Carl Reggiardo's Holmes always seems a sketch of the character, with only the slightest hint of an accent, and sometimes seems an impersonation (which makes a hash of the second act's plot points). The deepest level of this rather slight play is Marowitz's critique of the arrogance of the intellectual, but with Reggiardo, we never sense a mind truly put upon by second-rate pretenders to his throne.
Watson is the pretender, forever digging a deeper hole for himself in a game of wit against witless. Ross Evans' Watson captures the doctor's stumbling nature only too well: His muffed lines Saturday night threw the show into a temporary state of vapor lock. And Jill Beber, as a clever actress who may or may not be Moriarty's daughter, tripped through a monologue in which timing and precision are all.
Performances are at 12852 Main St., Garden Grove, on Wednesdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sunday and Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m., Oct. 25, 3 p.m. Tickets: $11-$14; (714) 636-7213.
'MY GOOD LOOKING LOVER'
Writer-director Meg Kruszewska starts off "My Good Looking Lover/My Good for Nothing" with the right idea: A woman loses her lover; what does she do now? Kruszewska subtitled her piece, "A Theatrical Dance Poem," and it is all those, especially a poem. Loss is probably poetry's richest subject--lost love only makes it richer.
At Theatre Upstairs, the show's priorities and its mixture of media produce an unpalatable salad.
Theatrically, we begin with a woman (Susan Karmel, with Jeanne Sakata, Katharine Shaw, Andrea Iaderosa and Jean Graham-Jones speaking her words as well) angry and saddened at her lover's departure, and we part from her still angry and saddened.
The terpsichorean ingredients (by Kruszewska and dancers Natasha Beyeler and Brian Clay Graham-Jones) add nothing except visual distraction, which looks like Martha Graham cloning.
Poetically, there's more preciousness here than the work can stand. The woman pines, "Flowers bloom, my sadness undispersed," but it comes off at best as a touching cliche. Kruszewska's women do not serve the verse well, with only Sakata projecting the blend of wrath and human understanding the text aspires to.
Our ears strain to hear the pianissimo voices over Ken Tkacs' mindless electronic Muzak. But our eyes widen at the sight of Karmel actually painting on the theater's walls. It's the kind of touch that reminds you that Kruszewska is a member of Reza Abdoh's adventurous company. This adventure, though, needs a compass.
Performances are at 5653 1/2 Hollywood Blvd. on Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 3 p.m. through Nov. 8. Tickets: $8; (213) 462-8592.
'AFTER THE POPE'
Earth to Paul Krassner: Jokes about the Pope snorting cocaine with you in the men's bathroom are not funny. This corner has nothing against Pope jokes. But when a comedian who aspires, as Krassner does at the Wallenboyd, to the role Ezra Pound once said artists fill--that of the antennae of society--he had better know the fresh from the stale. The expiration date on drug jokes has long passed.
Krassner, old Yippie that he is, likely couldn't bear to part with that particular staple, but until he does, he's risking a fall into terminal self-parody. (Does he really think his story of his acid trip at the Chicago 8 trial is essential?)
His hedge against counterculture cliches is the active role he plays in the alternative press with his periodical, the Realist. Like his many past shows at the Pipeline space, "After the Pope" is filled with his angles on the news. And though the news these days is unprecedented in this decade for rich comedic potential, Krassner's views on Contra -gate, Gary Hart, condoms and Robert Bork feel tired and familiar--perhaps his KPFK routines on the same topics with fellow satirist Peter Bergman have sapped the well.
He manages some sharp observations on the "fascism of canned laughter" and a funny anecdote about a panel discussion he shared with Ken Kesey. He ends, though, on a creepy note: His tale of a hallucinogen-filled trip to Ecuador, with his daughter in tow, makes you worry for his daughter. When no one laughed at this last Friday, Krassner was desperate for a closer. It never came.