Preview: ‘Crucifer of Blood’ brings Holmes to Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre
By Alice Carter
Director Matt Torney ranks Sherlock Holmes as one of the first superhero characters. Holmes may not deck himself out in a mask or cape like Batman or Superman, but he does have a super-power — his intellect and reasoning, Torney says.
“He has this enormous brain. … Holmes’ reasoning power cuts through chaos,” Torney says. “He is extraordinary, in no way an ordinary man. If you could see what he sees, you could be a great detective.”
As the director for Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre‘s production of “The Crucifer of Blood,” which begins performances Dec. 4 at the Charity Randall Theatre in Oakland, Torney hopes to bring to life the brilliant consulting detective for contemporary audiences.
Paul Giovanni’s stage thriller “The Crucifer of Blood” debuted on Broadway in 1978. Paxton Whitehead headed the cast of nine men and one woman — Glenn Close, who played Irene St. Claire.
The play is based loosely on several of Sir Arthur Conan Doyles’ Holmes novels most notably “The Sign of the Four,” which Doyle wrote in 1890. But Holmes fans will find snippets and references to some of the detective’s other adventures sprinkled throughout the drama.
People love mysteries and puzzles, says Torney who adds that Doyle’s mysteries are, first and foremost, “really, really good stories. If they are really, really good they capture our hearts and our minds.
In the Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre production, David Whalen returns as Holmes, whom he also played in 2011 in the company’s “The Mask of Moriarty.”
“The Crucifer of Blood” begins in 1857 in India during the British occupation with the theft of a trunk of jewels and the writing of a blood pact (the crucifer of the title) made between the conspirators.
“Dark things happen in the colonial wars on the edge of civilization,” Torney says. “The essential elements are blood, murder and greed.”
Three decades later, Holmes and his trusted assistant Dr. John Watson become involved when the grown daughter of one of the conspirators — Irene St. Claire — calls on Holmes to help her unravel a mystery about a disturbing note that her father received.
As Holmes and Watson follow a trail of clues, curses and seemingly supernatural occurrences, it leads them through the fog-clouded streets and into the houses of Victorian London as well as to an opium den.
“I imagine (Holmes) walking through the dark areas of (Victorian) London and shining the light of truth on them,” Torney says.
Torney envisions a production that celebrates the spirit of Victorian theater and melodrama with the use of spectacular effects to create drama and atmosphere.
“Our number one task is to excite and entertain the audience,” he says. “The challenge is to translate a literary phenomenon into a theatrical phenomenon. Giovanni fills in information within the dramatic framework and it becomes a theatrical story.”
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or email@example.com.