Sherlock Holmes and the West End Horror takes what people expect from the detective under advisement, but freely breaks with tradition.
There is a murder mystery at the heart of West End Horror (a theater critic is the victim), but the play is more about the cult of personality that surrounds Holmes, based on the popular stories written and published by his compatriot, Dr. Watson.
Over the course of the mystery, they meet and interact with a host of 19th century theatrical figures. Among the more recognizable are George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Gilbert and Sullivan, and a young H.G. Wells.
"For a little while, I think the audience is going to say 'Wow. This is not what I expected,'" said Wes Hennings, who plays several roles, including Wilde and Sir Arthur Sullivan. "But once they get past that, I think they'll discover that it really is a lot of fun."
West End Horror plays to the Holmes legend and the history of 19th century English literature. Dave Bellmer, who plays Dr. Watson, said discovering those small moments has been an entertaining education.
"If the audience doesn't get it, at least the cast will," he said with a laugh. "We have all gone home and researched on the Internet, trying to figure out what some of this stuff, these lines, mean."
Among the inside jokes are references to young Wells' devotion to the character of Sherlock Holmes and a suggestion that characters in Shaw's classic Pygmalion might have been based on Holmes and Watson.
Jeremy Medlin, who plays Holmes, is a longtime fan of the detective. Still, he felt it was important to discard his previous impressions.
"I really had to approach the character differently," he said. "I had to think about how I would respond if I was Sherlock Holmes. How would I, for instance, respond to Watson, the man that had written these stories and given me this public persona?"
One thing that did not give Mr. Medlin pause was the Holmesian technique of applying deductive reasoning to problem solving. Mr. Medlin, a chemistry teacher who taught forensic sciences for four years, said that he has been known to examine and deduce from time to time.
"It's what's great about what (Arthur Conan) Doyle did," he said.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: Sherlock Holmes and the West End Horror
WHEN: Dinner 7 p.m., show 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and July 24-25, 30-31 and Aug. 1
WHERE: Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre, Bldg. 32100, Third Ave.
COST: $37 general; $35, 65 and older, Army civilians and active-duty E7 and above; $28 active-duty E6 and below; $22 show only
LEARN MORE: (706) 793-8552, www.fortgordon.com