Rediscover the joy of experiencing a thrilling story, well told. Go behind the scenes of Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s 1940s radio station KBRD Long Beach (get it— K-Bard?) to hear Arthur Conan Doyle’s favorite Sherlock Holmes short story, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” presented as an old-time radio production. See how the actors step up to their microphones to perform not only multiple voice roles but all the sound effects necessary to enact this creepy tale for their on-the-air audience (and you).
The indefatigable Helen Borgers directs this intense one-hour production as part of the Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s pro-literacy effort and in honor of Sherlock Holmes’s purported Jan. 6 birthday. Narrated by the trusty Dr. Watson (Joe Montanari), the story concerns young Englishwoman Helen Stoner (Sarah Hoeven) who seeks Holmes’s (Joe LoCicero) advice regarding the untimely death of her twin sister, Julia (Jo McLachlan). The obvious culprit is the twins’ stepfather, not just because of his name– Dr. Grimsby Roylott (Leonardo Lerma)– but also his suspicious behavior in the past and the current company he keeps with roaming Gypsies. Not to mention the fact that he harbors a cheetah and baboon at the manor house he shares with his stepdaughters. But why would he have killed Julia? And how?
The five highly talented and accredited actors do a fabulous job of bringing this murder story to life, reading from meticulous scripts while creating all manner of sound effects (especially Lerma), including slamming doors, heavy footsteps, clopping horse-driven cabs and train whistles. Music (by Edmund Velasco) includes an organ played by Hoeven at just the right times to enhance the drama.
The stage is the minimal space of the KBRD radio studio, and the actors are simply costumed in black and white clothing with touches of flair. The focus thus remains on the story, which itself is an “old-time” coup in this age of computerized special effects. A couple of old-fashioned commercial breaks for local Long Beach businesses (written by Montanari) add to the radio atmosphere and lend some light humor.
It’s refreshing to actually use our imaginations while listening to a suspenseful tale, albeit with a little assistance– ok, a lot– from the exacting efforts of this accomplished cast and crew. ✦
The Adventure of the Speckled Band continues at the Richard Goad Theatre, 4250 Atlantic Ave., through Jan. 22, with shows Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $12.50. For reservations and information, call (562) 997-1494 or visit LBShakespeare.org.