A collection of historic reviews and articles on Sherlockian theatrical performances from contemporary newspapers.

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The Speckled Band (Arthur Conan Doyle)
November 21 - December: Garrick Theatre, New York , USA

(Information above on performance dates is derived from newspaper archives and is therefore likely to be incomplete.)

Conan Doyle’s Play, “The Speckled Band,” at the Garrick.

Conan Doyle’s stories are better than his plays. His latest play is a stage arrangement of one of his short stories, one of the Sherlock Holmes series and on that account, of course, it is bound to find an audience, just as it was bound to find a manager. It is rich in cheerful crudities, and you take it good naturedly, because the author admits you to his confidence with a manner that is childlike and bland.

It is quite the proper thing to turn up superior noses at the Sherlock Holmes stories, even though the owners of the noses read the stories with fearful joy, about bedtime. And so it happens that just as millions of humans of one color or another waited for Colonel Sellers’ Eye Wash, other millions, mostly white, but of various tongues, feel a secret eagerness to behold Sherlock Holmes on the stage.

With one Holmes, Mr Gillette's, the publis has been familiar these many years. Now another Sherlock, Mr. Charles Millward's, and he is quite as interesting, and, if you will have it so, quite as convincing as the first. He is cleverer, indeed, in disguises. He disguises not only his appearance, but his voice. The first Sherlock of your acquaintance never did that; his voice was always unmistakable.

"The Speckled Band" is the story of the poisonous snake that crawled down the bellrope at the bedside and gently took the life of sleeping ladies. Dr. Grimesby Rylott, retired Anglo-Indian surgeon, owned the snake and desired the ladies snug fortunes. The ladies died. Puzzle: find the cause. Coroners' juries couldn't do it. And do you wonder? Any crowner's quest sitting in the vicinity of Grimesby Rylott would have been more than suspicious of that choleric apostle of medical chaos and anarchy - excepting, of course, in a melodrama, and in this melodrama above all.

The company playing in "The Speckled Band" is a very good company. Mr. Edwin Stevens, as Grimesby Rylott, is as explosive a villain as ever went unhung You are never in the least doubt about him, and he means that you should have no doubt. If one has to do this sort of thing, this undiluted, maniacal villainy, one must do it thoroughly. Mr Stevens does it thoroughly. He is a villain after one's own heart, without a redeeming quality.

Of Mr Millward's Sherlock Holmes something has already been said, but not too much. And at last the real Dr Watson is seen. Mr Ivo Dawson plays this part, and he is the good natured, good looking, well meaning, none-too-deep companion of Sherlock's adventurous hours of the long series of short stories, the credulous (or incredulous), kindly, half-bewildered, always ready person Conan drew.

There's a good jury scene in the first act. The men are well portrayed types. There's a pretty, unheroic heroine. Her chief duty is to be pretty. Miss Irene Fenwick easily fulfils this duty. She cannot avoid it.
There's a cranky grocer who gains your dislike at first and ends by gaining your liking. Mr. Ben Field has the part, and he knows what he's about. And of course John Findlay is worth while as Rodgers, the aged butler in the Rylott household. Mr. Findlay is one of our best players of old men.

There are many other persons, of sorts, together they help to tell the story, although it must be confessed that the story is told when the second act is half over. The remainder of the play is shorn of mystery and is used for showing you how the ingenious Sherlock arrives at the conclusion which has already been revealed to you.

Dr. Rylott opens the basket, and the snake, conjured by the piping of the East Indian servant, comes forth for his morning cup of milk. Nobody takes the trouble to explain to us who pipes at the end of the play when the snake is enticed for his merry adventure through the hole-in-the-walL

Ali, the Indian knave, has been chloroformed in the garden by the handy and immaculate Watson. Somehow Grimesby Rylott doesn't know it. And Grimesby doesn't pipe. Perhaps the pipes pipe automatically. Or, maybe, there's a gramophone, or something. You'll have to guess and give it up.

This is where Conan Doyle taxes the intellect. And taxing the intellect is forbidden in melodrama. This is one of the first canons, but Sir Conan has forgotten it. Or maybe the manager. One really doesn't know, and it really doesn't matter. It is a naive play. Even a casual audience gathered in from Broadway would think so. Upon that fact perch vast and estimable truths. Anyhow, the play tells a story. and the first night audience seemed to like the story and the way it was told.

The credit, though, was more to the actors than to the knightly author. That distinguished and fortunate gentleman is so saturated with adventurous themes that it may not be impossible for him to write plays in his sleep.
A. W.

Dr Grimesby Rylott…..Edwin Stevens
Enid Stonor…..Irene Fenwick
Mrs Staunton…..Katherine Brook
Rodgers…..John Findley
Ali, an Indian…..H.H. McCollum
Mr Scott Wilson…..Cyril Chadwick
Mr Armitage…..Ben Field
Mr Longbrace…..Alexander Frank
Mr Brewer…..Ivan F. Simpson
Inspector Downing…..W. Coats Bush
Coroner’s Officer…..John M. Troughton
Mr Holt Loaming…..Frank Shannon
Mr James B. Montagu…..W. Soderling
Mr Milverton…..Ivan F. Simpson
Billy…..Kenneth Meinken
Dr Watson…..Ivo Dawson
Peters…..C. Later
Mr Sherlock Holmes…..Charles Millward

New York Tribune, Tuesday 22 November 1910