One of the distinctive characteristics of Sherlock Holmes is his lack of romantic interest in women. He may find a few of them intriguing – particularly actress Irene Adler, who outsmarts Holmes in the story “A Scandal in Bohemia” – but he does not get involved.
In “Sherlock’s Veiled Secret,” however, a contemporary work that is the next production of Rockville Little Theatre (RLT), playwright K.C. Brown takes a different twist: Holmes had a relationship not only with Adler but also two other women whose cases he solved and may or may not have produced progeny with them, said Director Laura Andruski.
“It’s Sherlock Holmes but not Sherlock Holmes,” added Andruski, who said she “badgered” the theater for years to present the play.
Enter another woman, a young sculptor who visits the now-retired Holmes, in the hope of creating his bust but both get embroiled in a blackmail scheme. But let’s leave that mysterious for now.
“Sherlock’s Veiled Secret” is a deeply complex story, with a lot of layers,” Andruski said. “It moves backward and forward in time, and we see many secrets being kept. Audience members have to remember what they know and when they knew it.”
There is also humor, in the guise of Charles Wellington Yorke, a “very early version of Dr. John Watson,” known also as Holmes’s sidekick, who is courting the sculptor.
Noah Steurer worked with Andruski before at Rockville Little Theatre but said he still was surprised and thrilled she cast him in the title role. In preparation, Steurer watched both BBC Sherlock Holmes series and the Robert Downey Jr. movies.
“It’s a little intimidating because everyone feels they know him,” Steurer said. “They may not know (all the) specifics, but they know he’s the cleverest guy in the room, prickly and doesn’t play on his emotions.”
Since the detective is 66 in the play, it means silvering his hair, adding makeup and physically trying to authentically be older, not like a young guy trying to look old, he explained. To complicate things, there are flashbacks in the play to when Steurer, 39, plays a much-younger Holmes.
Miranda Klugesherz is portraying Violet Sheridan, the sculptor.
In contrast to Steurer, Klugesherz is performing in her first RLT show; she’s been in the area for six months.
“I was initially drawn in by the opportunity to take part in a stage production of a mystery,” said Klugesherz, who as a child was “obsessed” with Nancy Drew. “The (mystery) genre welcomes a lot of creativity from the production side of things to set the atmosphere, and RLT’s production team has really risen to the occasion.”
Klugesherz said she had not explored the Sherlock Holmes canon prior to auditions but has “brushed up” since being cast.
“But I think my initial ignorance of the plotline and the character of Sherlock did allow me the freedom to explore Violet as her own person,” she said.
Though it is based on a story by Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, Violet Sheridan is not a character fans of the original stories will recognize, she pointed out.
“On the other author hand, I think the audience will recognize her in themselves. Violet is a starkly human contrast to Holmes’ somewhat other-worldly presence,” Klugesherz said.
“…Throughout most of the play, she is stumbling through messy and unsuccessful attempts to reconcile her intelligence and innately rebellious nature with the choices expected of young, upper-class women in the 1920s … It’s a story that will definitely speak on an intimate level to anyone who has ever felt unfulfilled.”
“Sherlock’s Veiled Secret” plays May 3-12 at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, Rockville Civic Center Park 603 Edmonston Drive, Rockville. www.rlt-online.org.