Reviewed by Katherine Karlson
SPARE Production’s latest offering, Haslop & Holmes: Art of the Steal, which opened Friday night (Aug. 16) in Owego, purports to “take its cues from film noir” as well as to “introduce the next generation of Holmes and Watson.” Instead, C. Alexander Park’s original play cobbles together a long series of unrelated pop culture references seasoned with large helpings of vulgar humor that serve no purpose to advance the plot. As Irene L. Holmes (Samantha Pritchard) says at one point, “We’re not wasting another three minutes of screen time on a middle school joke.” Would that the playwright had taken his own advice.
What is most disappointing is that a true melding of the Conan Doyle duo and great film noir would have been entertaining and interesting. Park’s goal, however, seems to have been to cram as many juvenile jokes and gags into the self-referential script instead of writing a play with a plot, character development and actual dialogue.
There are glimmers of what might have been. A scene in which Holmes and Liza White (Kylee Thetga) get drunk and start discussing the latter’s one-sided romance with Conan Watson Haslop (Jared Hinton) hints at the better selves of both detectives. The second act tries to build on this with the revelation of the ill-fated affair between Haslop and villainess extraordinare Alice Lupin (Jessica Hyland as The Mysterious Person/Chloe Patrick). Haslop stops acting the harassing buffoon and confronts Alice with her obsession to pull off the perfect crime, an aspiration she derives from dear old Dad, master thief Arsene Lupin. Haslop’s transformation into a suddenly mature, thoughtful and courageous crime fighter would have made an excellent play had it been given as much stage time as the nonsensical fillers of “commercials” and non sequitur musical interludes.
The actors did their best with the weak script. The audience numbered about 25 to 30 and appeared to be mainly friends and family of the cast members, who received enthusiastic applause at the end of the show.
IF YOU GO: Haslop & Holmes: Art of the Steal continues at 8 p.m. today (Aug. 17) and 3 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 18) at the Ti-Ahwaga Performing Arts Center, 42 Delphine St., Owego. (NOTE: Times have been incorrect on some platforms.) Tickets at $12 and $15 can be purchased through the Ti-Ahwaga box office at 687-2130 or www.tiahwaga.com.