ARTS

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November 7, 2004

Lost souls, classic Holmes come to vivid life at UT

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, presented this Friday and Saturday by University Theater, is a furious sprint by two desperate and isolated people who, in a night of need, reach out and find solace in the misery they share. The one-act play is at once an intimate portrait of two lost souls and a testament to the transforming power of human contact. It is clear from the production that the director, Paul Dichter, recognizes the attraction of the former and the import of the latter. And in that way, the portrayals of Dan, played by Sam Undine, and Roberta, played by Sarah-Doe Osborne, are what bring us into the play, and the testament to human contact is what we take home.

Sam Undine's depiction of Dan is, in many ways, three separate portraits that correspond to the scenes of the piece. He is a beast surrounded by barbed wire in the first, a vulnerable young man in the second, and an individual striving for a real chance at understanding someone else in the final act. This is not to say that Undine relegates specific emotions to the corresponding scene. Rather, Undine shows us a realistic transformation of his character that forces us to fear him at the start and understand him in the end.

Yet it is Sarah-Doe Osborne's performance as Roberta that is truly outstanding. Osborne has a stage presence that allows her to compete with Undine's intensity. From start to finish, she moves and speaks with the ease and confidence of a born actor. Her Roberta is nuanced and intensely human, which leaves us convinced of her performance and endeared to her character.

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea is a harrowing experience for the audience, as well it should be. But the performances lead us to a satisfying conclusion, and make a trip to University Theater this weekend definitely worthwhile.

The Musgrave Ritual, based on a Sherlock Holmes radio play, is an entertaining and novel approach to the theater and to the Sherlock Holmes universe. Directed by Mordechai Levy-Eichel, the half-hour radio play is enjoyable both because of its source material and its fresh approach to the genre of radio.

The Sherlock Holmes mysteries are deservedly beloved, and Mr. Levy-Eichel was smart to pick The Musgrave Ritual from the rest. The story contains all the trappings of good English mystery: a stuffy aristocrat, a mischievous butler, and an archaic poem that is far more important than the characters first realize. Mary Soo Anderson, Patrick Augustine, Daniel Sefik, and Matt Talbot focus on the deliveries, accents, and dialogue that defined the radio genre and, as a result, all give great performances. Christopher Wand, who has the difficult task of playing an icon, delivers a fine rendition of Sherlock Holmes, one that is more understated than the often foppish portrayal by the BBC's Jeremy Brett. Wand, like his cast mates, has a great delivery, and it is exciting to watch the genius detective's mind work.

Yet, it is the novelty of watching a radio play that makes The Musgrave Ritual truly amusing. The scenes are interspersed with musical interludes by Patrick Lau and his violin; Jennifer Crowell performs a full set of sound effects for the voice actors; and Ben Shepard begins, interrupts, and ends the play with tongue-and-cheek plugs for bromo-quinine cold tablets, the product that purportedly sponsored the Sherlock Holmes radio plays when they were first produced. All of these elements make it a unique theater-going experience, one that I gladly recommend.