The Uncanny Appearance of Sherlock Holmes, a performance piece by the North American Cultural Laboratory, does indeed pose many mysteries: Why is Inspector Lestrade playing the drums? Why is Dr. Watson wearing a silk negligee? And why didn’t writer-director Brad Krumholz take more care in crafting this detective-story/rock-and-roll/circus-arts/steampunk mash-up? One conundrum, at least, offers an easy solution: Why does Brett Keyser’s Holmes sport a pompadour? Because it looks awesome.
Krumholz follows the lead of philosophers like Umberto Eco and Slavoj Zizek, who use the Sherlock Holmes stories to discuss notions of semiotics, authorial intent, and linguistic free play. While of theoretical interest, these notions make for less than scintillating drama. The script calls on Holmes and Watson to investigate the deaths of Jeremy Nietzsche and Kevin Freud; a bewigged P.I., Jacqueline Derrida, offers her aid. Occasionally, the story pauses so that the cast can perform rock-and-roll songs or demonstrate tumbling. The songs relate to the action tangentially; the somersaults do not. In The Valley of Fear, Holmes posits, “There should be no combination of events for which the wit of man cannot conceive an explanation.” But I’m afraid Krumholz’s amalgam of disconnected elements has left me rather stumped.