The drive up the winding road to the Circle Bar B Theatre has as many twists and turns as their latest production, Sherlock’s Last Case, which runs until May 16. It was only a short trip past hills blanketed with yellow wildflowers, beyond the stables where dusty cowboys tend their horses to arrive in Victorian London at 221B Baker Street.
It’s teatime in the parlor of the legendary sleuth, his archenemy Professor Moriarty is defeated, and Sherlock Holmes (Sean O’Shea) is bored without the prospect of an interesting case. He practices his wit with biting remarks to the ever-faithful Watson (David Couch) and Mrs. Hudson (Jean Hall), the sentimental Scottish maid who likes to sneak sips from “wicked, wicked” spiked tea. But soon enough, a carrier pigeon is tossed through the window bearing a cryptic threat, and Holmes must solve the perfect crime to save…himself. The identity of the villain will surprise even the mystery buff with the magnifying glass in the front row.
Sean O’Shea takes the role of the most beloved, big-headed detective of all time. In dressing gown and tweed, with a wooden pipe and a face full of handsome rationality, he certainly looks like the next Basil Rathbone. O’Shea handles Sherlock’s quick wit with admirable pace, and his expression is as comically controlled while smoking his pipe as it is in the face of death. He only loses his composure once (understandably) in the presence of the buxom Liza Moriarty (Hannah Wolf). Rambling wordplay and dark farce make the humor decidedly British, although the accents are less certain of their nationality.
David Couch as Dr. Watson is the same sensitive sidekick—he patiently prepares Holmes’ tea, answers his doorbell, and stays one step behind the detective’s “elementary!” deductions. Then a character twist asks Holmes and the audience to re-consider those people who we count on to always be there, until suddenly they aren’t.
This season at the Circle Bar B is about family—blood or not, people bonded by love or proximity—and the ranch is a place for family. The picturesque setting is refreshingly absent of cell service, but full with plates of barbequed tri tip plus fixin’s, fresh air, and friendly smiles. Susie Couch, the producer, welcomes all patrons before the show like the family they are, and on the Sunday I visited the family included a delighted group of physically and mentally disabled adults who visit the theatre annually from LA. So round up whoever you call family and solve a mystery with Sherlock at the Circle Bar B.