Chills and Thrills by Andrew Paul

Andrew Paul is the director of The Hound of the Baskervilles opening this weekend at Gulfshore Playhouse.

First off, let me say just how much I am enjoying my time here in Naples. Today, I visited the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which was spectacular, and saw my first Florida alligators! Last week, a group of folks working on the show went out on a boat to see manatees. The people, weather, climate, beaches, and preponderance of beautiful plants and exotic animals make this a fabulous place to work on a show.

As I write this we are teching the show, which has more than 350 sound and light cues. That’s more than 3 cues for every minute of stage time! Thankfully, we have a brilliant design team led by scenic designer Kristen Martino, properties mistress Danielle Ferri, lighting designer Marie Yokoyama, and sound designer Christopher Collucci.

This is my third time directing the British troupe Peepolykus’ hilarious adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I was initially hired to direct the show in Las Vegas, where I live,

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The company of Peepolykus.

for the Nevada Conservatory Theatre in October, 2015 and also mounted a successful production for the Kinetic Theatre in Pittsburgh last summer. When Kristen Coury offered me the opportunity to do it again here I leaped at the opportunity.

Peepolykus (people like us, get it?) is an extraordinary company. They develop their scripts (mostly adaptations of novels) through improvisation, pulling out threads of the story and exploding them in overtly comic ways. They just produced a comic Madame Bovary (yes, really) that is touring the UK. Their greatest success, however, has come with Hound of the Baskervilles, which has proven to be enormously popular all over the world.

Part of this has to do with the great Detective himself. The success of the BBC series, Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and the American series, Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu have only increased the mania for all things Holmes. And The Hound of the Baskervilles remains perhaps the most read and best loved of all his adventures.

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Jeffrey Binder, James David Larson, and Phillip Taratula.

So what makes this show so much fun to work on and so enjoyable to experience as an audience member?  I would start with the marvelous conceit of having just three male actors play all of the roles, male and female. The show is a gift for skilled comedic actors and lives and dies off of the chemistry created in the rehearsal hall. The many hilarious physical gags in the show require a fearless commitment from the performers. Luckily, our production is anchored by Gulfshore Playhouse Artistic Associate and resident actor, Jeffrey Binder, who is simply marvelous as Sherlock Holmes. Jeffrey is joined by New York City based actors James David Larson, as Watson, and Philip Taratula, as Sir Henry Baskerville. We literally can’t get through the rehearsals some days – they are that funny!

But let me assure the purists that this adaptation is absolutely faithful to the original novella by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (no small achievement!). The book is packed with five heavily convoluted plots: the ‘curse’ story, two red-herring sub-plots, the actual events on the moor as narrated by Dr. Watson, and the murderous plot eventually revealed by Holmes as a glorious deus ex machina. We have gone to great lengths in the rehearsal room to insure that we tell the story as clearly and truthfully as we possibly can. If we play our cards right, you will feel some chills and thrills and also have a mighty good laugh.

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