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STEPPING OUT: ‘Holmes’ for the Holidays

“People don’t often think of this, but Sherlock Holmes would have made a terrible roommate,” says playwright Vince Stadon, calling up from his home in England to talk about his favorite literary detective. “I don’t say that just because of his unpleasant personality,” the wry-humored author continues. “Sherlock Holmes, in the Arthur Conan Doyle books, was always conducting forensic experiments in one of his rented rooms. What if Holmes were your roommate, and he was doing awful, smelly things with cadavers in the next room, at Christmas time? It would make it rather hard to feel very festive, I should think.”

Yes it would. Unless, of course, such stuff were fodder for a hilarious, holiday-themed radio play, performed live with all the classic radio show trimmings. Such will be the case as Petaluma Radio Players presents “Holmes for the Holidays,” Dec. 21-24, at Hotel Petaluma. The opening night show will be broadcast live and also live-streamed on the internet (www.kpca.fm) via Petaluma’s KPCA 103.3 FM radio station.

That is just as the stories were meant to be heard.

Stadon is the author of the comedic “The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes,” a spirited collection of radio scripts, in which Holmes and his faithful friend Dr. Watson find themselves in a series of riotous predicaments. Three of Stadon’s scripts – including one taking place at Christmas – will be presented as part of the show. In the presentation, Holmes will be played by Iain Morris and Dr. Watson will be played by Paul Reffell, with members of the company playing various other characters, villains and victims.

“This was all a bit of a surprise to me,” confesses Stadon, who’d never heard of Petaluma before receiving a query from the local troupe, asking for permission to use some of his radio plays in their big annual holiday show. “Evidently, they’d bought a copy of my collective scripts,” he explains. “Then they decided they wanted to do some of them in a live performance. I think it’s wonderful. I have to say, this is the best news coming out of American in quite some time.”

Stadon, who writes and produces sitcoms in the United Kingdom, and co-hosts a popular podcast called “Vince and Jeremy’s Overrated Podcast,” published his first collection of Holmes scripts five years ago. They’ve been produced a number of times, but always in the UK.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been done in California before,” he says.

Asked about his motivation for putting Holmes in a series of comedies, Stadon says that there is already plenty of accidental comedy in the original stories.

“Arthur Conan Doyle was really very sloppy with his storytelling, and the details are not quite consistent,” he says, mentioning that Watson is supposedly shot in one story, then in another he says it was his leg. Characters are married in one story and not married in another.

Then there is the surprising amount of attention given to Watson’s mustache.

“Watson has a wonderful mustache, evidently, and I thought all of this stuff was good to have a lot of fun with,” Stadon says. “Not in a cruel way or a nasty, sneering way, but a playful, affectionate, polite way.”

Such literary tomfoolery would not offend Doyle at all, Stadon believes.

“There’s a story of a playwright sending a message to Arthur Conan Doyle asking if he might write a play in which Sherlock Holmes gets married,” Stadon recalls. “In response, the playwright got a telegram from Doyle saying, ‘You may marry him or kill him or do what you want with him.’ Doyle killed Holmes off himself, once. Then brought him back. He created a character that can be used in almost any way imaginable. So I’m just continuing in that tradition.”

Noting the high number of different television shows, motion pictures, stage plays that are currently running with Holmes and Watson as central characters, Stadon points out that there is little he or any other writer can do to Homes that would harm his significance and indelible, unstoppable popularity. And for purists, of course, Conan Doyle’s short stories still do exist, in all their original glory.

“If you want Holmes in his purest form, you can always return to those stories,” Stadon says. “But if you are looking for a laugh, I suggest you go to the Petaluma Hotel on the weekend of December 21.”

That said, Stadon admits that, for him, the commute from England to Petaluma is a bit prohibitive.

“So,” he says, “on December 21, I plan to grab a sherry and listen to the show as it happens. It will be four in the morning or something, here ... but that isn’t likely to stop me.”

(Contact David at david.templeton@arguscourier.com)

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