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A Sherlock Carol

  • Theater, Drama
  • 3 out of 5 stars
5 Isabel Keating, Mark Price, Drew McVety, Thom Sesma, Anissa Felix, and Dan Domingues in A SHERLOCK CAROL, photo by
Photograph: Courtesy Evan ZimmermanA Sherlock Carol

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Raven Snook

A cornucopia of Christmas Carols is a hallmark of the holiday season, as many productions try to find fresh ways to reheat the chestnut. Playwright-director Mark Shanahan has come up with a relatively novel one: a mash-up of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Set many Christmases after Ebenezer's ghost-induced epiphany, A Sherlock Carol finds the title detective (Drew McVety) in a Scrooge-like state of mind. His nemesis is dead, and Holmes has lost his sense of purpose; he's closing up shop and sending his longtime associate Dr. Watson (Mark Price) on his unmerry way. But another physician soon comes knocking: Dr. Cratchit (Dan Domingues)—formerly known as Tiny Tim—implores Holmes to solve the murder of his benefactor Scrooge and discover the whereabouts of his missing will. 

Since they're both brooding 19th-century literary icons, it's easy to spot glimmers of Scrooge in Holmes—as, in fact, others have. (See the 2013 play Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol and the 2018 short story A Christmas Carol at 221B.) Still, Shanahan's wreathing of these icons is fun, as a haunted Holmes is visited by the specter of Scrooge (Thom Sesma, having a blast), encounters loved ones from his past, and glimpses the dark future that may lie in store if he doesn't mend his attitude. All the while, of course, he cracks the case.

The story is elementary, but knowledge of the sources helps. Shanahan sprinkles references throughout the play, including new characters descended from Dickens's original ones (like Mr. Fezziwig) and allusions to Holmes mysteries (like The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle). Clad in Linda Cho's handsome period costumes, against scenic designer Anna Louizos' simple Victorian London backdrop, the six actors give spirited performances and even sing a few carols. Except for McVety and Sesma, they all play multiple parts, with Price a standout at transforming on cue. Yet A Sherlock Carol never really transcends its inspirations. Too often, it feels oddly perfunctory and distant, without the warmth that is essential to this holiday tale. It's no humbug, but the game is mostly aloof.

A Sherlock Carol. New World Stages (Off Broadway). Written and directed by Mark Shanahan. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 45mins. One intermission.

Note: In the 2022 production, the role of Scrooge is played by Allen Gilmore.

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Written by
Raven Snook


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