Pop Filter Hot Pick: PICT presents the Pittsburgh premiere of The Crucifer of Blood

David Whalen and Justin R. G. Holcomb as Holmes and Watson in The Crucifer of Blood Photo by Suellen Fitzsimmons

David Whalen and Justin R. G. Holcomb as Holmes and Watson in The Crucifer of Blood Photo by Suellen Fitzsimmons

Why you should go: Fans of Sherlock Holmes and The Wicker Man do not want to miss the latest production presented by Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre (PICT). During the month of December, PICT invites you to take in some “Holmes” for the holidays.

Marking the culminating production of its 2013 season, PICT is presenting the much buzzed about Pittsburgh premiere of The Crucifer of Blood. Running December 4th through December 21st, the dramatic Sherlock Holmes-style adventure will provide the perfect melange of intrigue, mystery, danger, travel and suspicion needed to spice up your holiday festivities.

Written by the American playwright, actor, director and musician, Paul Giovanni (1933-1990), The Crucifer of Blood is adapted from The Sign of the Four, the second novel featuring Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1890.

Returning to PICT to reprise the role of Holmes–following his 2011 turn as the master detective in The Mask of Moriarty–is David Whalen, who has performed in 20 roles as an associate artist with the company. Whalen recently wrapped filming for The Fault in Our Stars, which is slated for release in 2014. Also returning from the 2011 production is Daryll Heysham, who plays Inspector Lestrade. Making his PICT debut as Dr. Watson is Justin R. G. Holcomb.

Directed by Matt Torney, the production runs upstairs in The Charity Randall Theatre, which is located inside the Stephen Foster Memorial in Oakland. A writer and director based in NYC, Torney is a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Since 2009, he has served as associate director of Rough Magic Theatre Company, one of Ireland’s leading independent theater companies. He received his MFA in theater directing from Columbia University, and also works extensively as an art director on film, television and commercial projects.

Giovanni’s mysterious, exotic and at times deadly drama pits the beloved master detective–a fictional character who now spans three centuries–against an ingenious plotting villain. Audiences will be drawn in as the play follows Irene St. Claire, a young woman who decides to hire Sherlock to investigate the troubles that her father and his three comrades suffered as a result of a blood oath they made over a chest of jewels during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Fearing for her father’s safety, St. Clair calls upon the clever sleuth, who attempts to unravel hidden clues as the exotic mystery turns deadly.

Theatre-goers will be led through foggy London, from Baker Street–the legendary locale of Holmes’ fictional residence–to spooky Pondicherry Lodge, into a Limehouse opium den and even on a boat chase on the Thames, before returning back to Baker Street. Only those in attendance can be sure if the cryptic Treasure of Agra will harm all who touch it.

“It is truly a Victorian melodrama. The play has a wonderful pacing and the elements of danger are front and center. Giovanni took a favorite Sherlock story and really exploded it, adding in a lot of other features and tying so many things together with his own creativity,” says Michelle Belan, with PICT. “It is a well recognized play and is also very ambitious to produce, with many scene changes. Our director is extremely visual and he has very cleverly created these different worlds for us. The cast is amazing and has a great energy. Everyone is so excited about the production.”

Directed by Giovanni himself, The Crucifer of Blood first opened on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre in 1978 and went on to win two Drama Desk Awards and receive four Tony Award nominations. In 1991, the play was adapted for film by Turner Network Television, starring Charlton Heston as the inimitable Sherlock Holmes.

Renowned for composing the distinctive and highly influential music for the 1973 British horror film The Wicker Man, which stars Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward and Britt Ekland and has become a cult favorite both for its music and themes, Giovanni also staged the first British national tour of Amadeus. Author of a musical entitled Shot Through The Heart, Giovanni studied at The Catholic University of America Speech and Drama Department.

Go beyond the stage with one of PICT’s special public programs held in conjunction with the production. Opening night’s festivities on December 7th will include a post-show reception with the play’s cast and artistic team at The Porch at Schenley. A Talkback event following the 2 p.m. performance on December 8th features a discussion with PICT’s producing artistic director Alan Stanford and the cast of The Crucifer of Blood. A Pre-Show Lecture will be held on December 11th at 7 p.m. with Stanford.

Purchase tickets now.