Playwright steps into lead at Park Square

Bob Davis, Tamara Clark and Neal Hazard.

Bob Davis, Tamara Clark and Neal Hazard.

Wednesday marked the end of a couple of busy days for Jeffrey Hatcher.

After lead Steve Hendrickson was sidelined Friday by emergency surgery, Hatcher found himself wearing the deerstalker in Park Square Theatre's production of Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders.

It wasn't that the play was unfamiliar to Hatcher. He wrote the adaptation of Larry Millet's novel, after all. Still, Hatcher only had a few days to get ready to take over as the great detective from Hendrickson. (Who is home and recovering; get well soon, Steve.)

All of this made for a somewhat off performance Wednesday evening, as Hatcher moved into the well-oiled machinery of the rest of the cast. He's still finding his own Holmes, and still learning the full ins and outs of the script. Hatcher carried it with him for most of the show, which also served as a distraction.

While Hatcher the actor was still finding his feet, Hatcher the playwright provided a smooth running engine. The play takes our favorite detective duo out of London and off to the great Midwest in 1896. They are drawn to St. Paul by a mystery. A young scion of the community has disappeared on the eve of the Winter Carnival. His fiance isn't particularly distraught, the police chief doesn't want any interference from these foreigners, and the streets of St. Paul are a dangerous place.

The mystery deepens when the head of the missing man is found in the about-to-be-opened ice palace, and more bodies are added to the pile. Holmes and Watson do have allies, including hard-nosed reporter Miss Pyle and barkeep/ex-flatfoot/war veteran/private eye (there are a few more jobs in there too) Shadwell Rafferty. The clock is ticking throughout, especially as the temperature is rising and the palace is nearing collapse.

The mystery is engaging throughout, with revelations made almost until the final curtain. Over the course of several productions, Bob Davis has built a warm and engaging Watson, offering able assistance to his best friend even as he knows he is always going to be a couple of steps behind. E.J. Subkoviak is memorable as Shadwell, providing some unexpected drama and pathos amid the mystery. Stephen Cartmell has a number of roles, but is especially good as the Italian ice carver, Dante.

Most of the other characters come and go as cogs in the plot, often there to provide clues or red herrings. Still, all of it moves along with a nice brisk pace, and Hatcher has lots of room to grow into the part of Sherlock Holmes — as soon as he catches his breath.


Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders

Through July 26

Park Square Theatre

20 W. Seventh Pl., St. Paul

$40-$60 ($27-$37 previews)

For tickets and more information, call 651-291-7005.