They’ve got heroes and villains. Suspense and romance. Even a boat chase on the River Thames, complete with a man overboard.
“The bad guys get on a boat, and we get on a boat with the police and chase them down the Thames and shoot one of them,” director Lou Bisignani said, describing a high-action scene in The Actors Circle presentation of “Sherlock Holmes and The Curse of the Sign of Four or The Mark of the Timber Toe, A Victorian Melodrama.”
“One of the other bad guys jumps into the water and (Inspector) Lestrade and a few other minor characters slow their boat down and throw a rope and pull a man up out of the water. We take him back to an apartment and put a big coat and blanket on him and get him to tell us the story of the Treasure of the Agra that was stolen.”
The show with the exceptionally long title opened Jan. 25 and runs through Sunday at the Providence Playhouse in Scranton, and it’s not the first time The Actors Circle has presented it.
The troupe presented the melodrama back in the 1980s, and Bisignani remembers actors protesting back then that audiences wouldn’t accept the river scene and dramatic rescue.
“If you believe it, they’ll believe it,” he told them.
“Every time we pulled the guy out of the water, we’d get a cheer.”
The show portrays a young Sherlock Holmes and young Dr. Watson, Bisignani said, and it introduces Mary Morstan, who becomes a love interest for the latter.
“She comes in as a client, looking for help,” the director said. “Her father is missing and she’s very concerned. She’s looking for someone to help her find out what happened to him and when she and Watson look into each other’s eyes, it’s like ‘Woah! We’re off!’”
“Then there are plots twists and turns you wouldn’t believe.”
In recent weeks, Bisignani said, people who don’t regularly come to Actors Circle shows have told him they want to attend this production. Some of the interest may stem from the recent BBC series “Sherlock” that starred Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, he surmised, or from the books Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote more than 100 years ago.
“It’s like a Superman character,” Bisignani said, describing Holmes. “Bigger than life.”
The director has been pleased with the way actor Scott Rave is portraying the role. “He’s taken the part by its neck, with his teeth, and he’s shaking it,” Bisignani said.
For Rave, of Exeter, this show marks his first Actors Circle production. He auditioned because he’s a Sherlock Holmes fan and said he would have taken any part but is thrilled to play the famous detective.
“When he’s working on a case, he’s intensely focused, almost to the point of obsession,” Rave said. “He’s extremely logical and analytic. He can be a little arrogant at times. When he’s not working on a case, he’s very bored.”
The case in the show relieves Holmes’ boredom nicely. “He follows it down the rabbit hole, and it leads to something,” Rave said.
To prepare for the role, Rave has been focusing on Conan Doyle’s novels and short stories, to keep the character true to the author’s intention. “I’ve been avoiding watching any screen adaptations,” he said. “It’s very tempting but I want to make the role my own.”
Perhaps when the play is over, he said, he’ll see some old Basil Rathbone movies. “I’ve heard good things about them,” he said. Or he might revisit Cumberbatch in the BBC series. “I’m a big fan of his interpretation. I’m probably going to binge watch it.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.
IF YOU GO
What: ‘Sherlock Holmes and The Curse of the Sign of Four or The Mark of the Timber Toe, A Victorian Melodrama’
Who: Presented by The Actors Circle
Where: Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road, Scranton
When: Through Sunday with shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $12, $10, $8