"Arsenic is entirely traditional," declares Sherlock Holmes to his sidekick Dr. Watson, when Watson complains about some of the antiquated methods of the world's best-known sleuth. "But it does the trick."
Much the same thing could be said about Little Theatre of Alexandria's production of "The Hound of the Baskervilles." The mystery, based on one of the better-known tales of the deductive exploits of the English detective, now celebrating his 100th birthday, is as standard as the whodunit gets -- with dead bodies, guilty-looking characters, blind alleys and plot twists.
While it may seem a little old-fashioned, the effect here is entirely enjoyable because director Don Martin and his accomplished ensemble ably employ the genre for all its pleasures. This is a drama that pushes all the right buttons of an audience, giving it a little scare, a little laugh and a lot of clues to sort out.
The mystery starts out on the misty moors of the west country of Britain where the former master of Baskerville Hall has been scared to death by a "hound from hell," the emissary of a curse placed long ago on the Baskervilles for a dirty deed by an evil ancestor. The master, it turns out, has been lucky, as most of these men get their throats bloodily ripped out by the spectral dog.
Inheriting the creepy place is a dapper Sir Henry, who looks marked for a supernatural mauling himself. Until, of course, Sherlock Holmes arrives.
Bob Cook plays the part snotty and smug, though he also succeeds at endearing himself.
The other performers are all uniformly excellent, from the sassy maid (Patricia McDonald Joaquin) to the suave but naive Sir Henry (Robert Vander-Linden). Especially effective is Charles Hay as Watson, a jovial man constantly flummoxed by his best friend.
But the real standout in "Hound" is the set, sound and lighting. Kudos should go to the technical staff for managing to create the mood of the moors so effectively.
The plot, adequate though not breathtakingly clever, wends its way briskly, pointing fingers in all directions, until Holmes finally sets things straight and nabs the guilty party, as we knew he would the whole time. But who cares, because what's important is getting there. As Holmes always announces: "The game's afoot." Happily, it's a pleasure to play along.