GLENS FALLS — With the ominous braying of Grimpin Mire’s ghostly hound rising from the moor, three actors bring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most iconic work to life in a wildly madcap comedic caper during Friday’s afternoon rehearsal at the Glens Falls Volunteer Fire Co.
And as the cast of three — Henry McDaniel, John Michael Decker, Shayne David Cameris — scamper through a handful of their 14 different roles under the direction of Artistic Director Jarel Davidow, the Lake George Dinner Theatre’s 52nd Season takes shape in preparation for this week’s opening production of “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”
“I picked it, it’s a great comedy and because of its style, it fits in with what we like to do with dinner theater,” said Davidow, now in his second season as artistic director.
This first production of the summer opens on July 11 and runs through Aug. 31, with 52 performances.
Originally penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this mysterious thriller was adapted into a comedic adventure by Steven Canny and John Nicholson for Peepolykus (pronounced ‘people like us’).
Some have dubbed the Canny and Nicholson adaptation of this classic tale as anarchic comedy. And with it’s sometimes over-the-top physicality, pantomimed movements and silent film-like facial gestures, its interpretation has been compared to the famed Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton and Monty Python.
Promising a bit of the absurd, a bit of mystique, a bit of madcap sleuthing and a lot of laugh-out-loud comedy reminiscent of upscale British comedy, “The Hounds of the Baskervilles” is absurdly funny.
And in Friday’s rehearsal, the fast-paced situations that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson get themselves into on the Moors of Devonshire, felt oddly familiar, like being in the middle of a “Fawlty Towers,” episode with the Monty Python-famed John Cleese.
As the high-brow bumbling duo tries to figure out what happened to Sir Charles Baskerville, found mysteriously dead on his estate, the role changes and tongue-in-cheek humor is near perfectly paced. And what makes this version particularly unique, the play opens with the actors talking to the audience about being an actor in the play, including all the potential foibles that can happen.
This interactive approach makes it particularly fun for audiences, Davidow said.
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By Friday, the actors had only been in rehearsal for a week and a day, but they were already off-book (without scripts) and naturally blending into their shared experience, visibly enjoying the process.
“This is an absolute blast for me,” said Cameris on Friday.
Agreeing, the three actors talked about their experience and about how much fun it has been to take Conan Doyle’s work into this form.
“I love it,” said McDaniel, who teaches voice and speech in the theater department at Penn State in State College.
“In our version of “The Hounds of the Baskervilles,” the actors’ personalities come to life,” said Decker.
Each the summer, the dinner theater takes residence at the Holiday Inn Resort in Lake George, converting a conference room into a theater and playing space.
With about half of the audience coming from visiting tourists and the other half from the local community, The Lake George Dinner Theatre has been part of the community for decades.
Founded in the late 1960s, David Eastwood and Bruce Jordan joined forces to create a local summer stock theater company, The Riverbend Players, kicking off what would later become known as the Lake George Dinner Theatre, now a not-for-profit.
“We have patrons who have been returning for years,” said Davidow. “We provide a good meal and great entertainment.”
“The Hound of the Baskervilles” opens on Thursday.