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Friday, June 7, 2013

The Ebony Ape of Sherlock Holmes

Of all the many Sherlock Holmes plays that have been performed since the first (which pre-dated the Gillette classic), I've seen very few. One of the most memorable for me was the world premier of The Ebony Ape. You never heard of it? Let me tell you about it.

First performed in September 1987 at the Lexington (KY) Opera House, The Ebony Ape was written and directed by Charles Edward Pogue. Pogue is best known as a screenwriter for such films as Psycho III, The Fly, and British versions of The Sign of Four and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

As I recall it, The Ebony Ape was what Arthur Conan Doyle might have called "a real creeper" based on "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" and "The Adventure of the Creeping Man." I know longer remember the playwright blended those two together, but the program reveals that characters included Professor Owen Presbury and Dr. Leon Sterndale.

The program itself is interesting, beginning with "In Honor of the 100th Anniversary of Sherlock Holmes ACTORS GUILD OFLEXINGTON, INC. & HOTSPURE, INC. proudly present . . ."

The prologue, the epilogue, and each of the eight scenes has a title, which I'm not sure I've ever seen on a play. And below each title is an intriguing full or partial quote from the Canon. Some almost certainly will be familiar to you; others may not be. Here are the quotes:

"Madness and Death . . . "

"Where there is no imagination, there is no horror . . . "

"The scarlet thread of murder . . . "

"A dog reflects the nature of its surroundings . . . "

"I have trained myself to see what others overlook."

"Dreams sometimes become nightmares . . . "

". . . the fiend is not dead, only sleeping . . . "

"The Devil's Foot . . .  "

". . . The curious incident of the dog . . . "

". . . a remarkable and ghastly business . . . "

Several members of the Tankerville Club drove from Cincinnati for the play. Backstage, we met the author. "I tried to be as authentic as I could," he said. And while not slavishly faithful to the original stories, the play certainly captured their spirit. 

I'd love to see this play again! I'd even settle for a chance to read it.

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