From the Back Row: There is nothing elementary about “Sherlock Holmes” or the Purple Rose

They took their bows with smiles of satisfaction and pride. They soaked in the applause from a very appreciative audience. And then they disappeared “behind the curtain” and into the night.
But what these six actors left behind won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

It’s really quite magical, this performing arts stuff. And when you don’t take advantage of realizing it on a frequent basis, the magic can, well, disappear. Out of sight, out of mind.

There are things worth taking the time for and theater should be on anyone’s list. It’s easy to grab the milk duds and gummy bears and head over to the movie theatre and watch the latest Will Ferrell or Tom Hanks or heck Jeff Daniels movie. But live theater – especially when it’s done right – is an experience. Not just a night out. And to Jeff Daniels’ credit, guidance and vision, the Purple Rose Theatre Company does it right.

Founded in 1991 by Daniels, the Purple Rose has been one of Southeastern Michigan’s crown jewels for decades. Its reputation as a first-rate theater company is well known and they have raised the curtain on numerous careers from playwrights to actors to directors.

Those six actors taking their bows on Thursday night before a packed house proved that good things can become great, not stale or redundant or tiresome. They took the wonderful words of David MacGregor, the guidance and direction of Michelle Mountain and the reputation and brilliance of all those that came before them to not only meet the standards of the Purple Rose but even take it up a few notches.

And isn’t that what it’s all about. To be better. To improve. To turn great into greater. Big into bigger. To take an incredible script, bring it to life and then give it heart and soul and conviction.

MacGregor’s “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Fallen Souffle” was one of those rides you simply don’t want to end. There was nothing “elementary” about the way the story was told or how it was performed. Every word seemed to have a meaning; every movement a purpose.

Whether it was Sherlock showing off his prowess at using logic and astute observation or Dr. Holmes demonstrating his own reasoning powers or Marie Chartier dancing the Irish Jig – these actors had the audience believing. And that’s what great actors do – they make us believe we aren’t in Chelsea on a cold Thursday night but at 221b Baker St. on June 21, 1897.

Many times when you walk out of a play you are captured by the performance of one of the actors. It – for the lack of a better expression – jumps off the screen, or stage in this case.

That was not the case with “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Fallen Souffle.” There were six actors capturing your attention – Mark Colson as Sherlock Holmes, Paul Stroili as Dr. John Watson, Sarab Kamoo as Irene Adler, Tom Whalen as Auguste Escoffier, Caitlin Cavannaugh as Marie Chartier and David Bendena as Albert Edward (Bertie).

And if we did have to single one out – let’s say if they were pointing a gun at us – it would be Caitlin Cavannaugh’s Marie Chartier. Even when she wasn’t pointing a gun she was mesmerizing – her somewhat sinister smile made me smile all night long.

And while people are taking bows, go ahead Bartley Bauer for an incredible set and Suzanne Young for those perfect costumes. The Purple Rose hits home runs because they field a team that plays every position to perfection.

The “manager” of this team is Guy Sanville, the longtime artistic director. He sums up what they do at the Purple Rose better than anyone.

“A boat in the harbor is safe,” he says. “But if it stays there long enough, its bottom will rot out. We choose to go where no one has gone before because it keeps us fresh. It keeps us moving in new directions to explore new methods and forms. And because we believe in these plays, each other, and the people who write them, and what they reveal about what it means to be human.”
It’s not elementary – it’s incredible.

And what’s even more incredible is it’s right here in our own backyard.

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