By: Sruli Friedman  | 

Arts & Culture: A Review of YCDS’s The Hound of the Baskervilles

Anyone who has ever read The Hound of the Baskervilles surely remembers it as a singularly compelling and enigmatic drama. If you were, as I was, a Sherlock Holmes aficionado that spent a good too many hours of your youth poring over Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of history’s most famous fictional detective, the story will surely leap into your memory as the most compelling and gripping novel in the canon, one that you refused to budge from before you experienced the relief of the mystery’s final resolution.

This preternatural tale of accursed patrimonies and conniving villains may not seem to be material from which comedies are molded, but Steven Canny and John Nicholson’s adaptation of this classic tale that has enthralled readers for a century refutes that narrow minded view born of feeble imagination.

The story provides an unanticipated shift from the suspense and terror which is suffused within each page of the famous novel, a reversal that is patent from the first scene to the last. The characters of Doyle’s world are transformed into comical caricatures of their former selves that will keep audiences heaving in laughter. The story contains not only copious amounts of slapstick comedy often passing into chaos and plain disrespect for the fourth wall, but a whole aura of comedy and eagerness to entertain perfectly encapsulated by the deep unseriousness with which Holmes, Watson and the others comport themselves. You can’t help but smile at the innovative and charming twist on the beloved mystery as the modest cast of actors shift from costume to costume, cracking jokes about their alter egos.

The casting is the chief mechanism by which the play achieves this unique spirit. Although a playwright seeking to provide a precise, and likely superfluous, recapitulation of the original story could easily fill his ranks with a number of actors, Canny and Nicholson make do with three, having the actors do double and triple duty in a variety of often conflicting roles and personalities. YCDS largely sticks to this small cast, although it expands the dramatis personae to include two more actors beyond the core three, allowing the play to retain its idiosyncratic attraction. 

Kiki Arochas (YC ‘25) spectacularly acquits his leading role as Sherlock Holmes (among other characters). Last year, Arochas’s simultaneously passionate and light-hearted acting was one of the highlights of the quite serious play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, and this year I remarked to him that he was an interesting choice for the rather grave and reserved Holmes. Unfortunately, as so often happens, I had zero clue what I was talking about. The Holmes of the play manages to preserve the distinctual Holmesian disposition which makes him recognizable to so many while concurrently transposing the detective into a deeply funny character who will endear himself to the audience for his fits of anger and his subtle jabs at Watson’s intellect.

Of course, no Sherlock Holmes story is complete with the absence of his ubiquitous sidekick Dr. John Watson, played by the inestimable Shneur Levy (YC ‘25), also returning from a stellar performance in Ui. With his often more-than-slightly awkward admiration for Holmes and his trusty revolver which he is a bit too trigger happy with, we sympathize with Watson as we do in any story as he struggles futilely to keep up with Holmes’s superior intellect. In this instance we may laugh at him as well, but that isn’t for lack of caring.

The original trio of characters is rounded out by Henry Baskerville, played by another YCDS veteran Zev Granik (YC ‘24), the sole surviving scion of his dynasty, returning to the manor on which so many of his family members have met their macabre end. Once again, what could be a source of terror in the novel is turned to comedy by Granik’s acting. Baskerville may not fear death at the hands of a foul beast, but does Zev? 

The cast is rounded out with the talent of Rami Levin (SSSB ‘24), president of YCDS and driving force behind the play, and Steven Galitzer (SSSB ‘26), who play the Barrymores and Mortimer, respectively, among a number of other roles, lending a sort of completion to the whole play.

This year’s production also holds the notable distinction of being the 18th YU student play directed by Professor Reuven Russell, which is the numerical equivalent to chai [life]. The importance of his leadership was clearly apparent as he led the actors through the full dress rehearsal in preparation for the five showings that will be held in Schottenstein Theater between Sunday and Thursday this week.

YCDS’s Hound of the Baskervilles is a blast of fresh air, a genuinely hysterical and charming twist on a beloved tale. This production will also be beloved by all those who watch it — and everyone should.

YCDS will be performing The Hound of the Baskervilles in the Schottenstein Theater his week from Monday through Thursday. Anyone who is interested in seeing the play can sign up here.


Photo Caption: (Left to Right) Kiki Arochas, Shneur Levy and Zev Granik in a scene from the play

Photo Credit: YCDS