Sherlock Holmes with a touch of Pirandello furnishes the intriguing premise for "The Penultimate Problem of Sherlock Holmes" at the Hudson Guild Theater. The great detective (Keith Baxter) and Dr. Watson (Curt Dawson) have invited a Mrs. Piper of Boston (Dorothy Lancaster) to conduct a psychic experiment. In the course of two evenings, the lodgings at 21 Baker Street are visited by the ghosts of Irene Adler (Marion Lines), Poe's Monsieur Dupin (Yusef Bulos), and finally, of course, Prof. James Moriarity himself (Edward Zang). But playright John Nassivera has yet another deus ex machina in the wings of this Victorian setting. Just when the skeptical Holmes has worked his way thorough every possible explanation for the ghostly phenomena, he receives a visit from Conan Doyle, whom he of course does not recognize at all. The confrontation between fiction's most famous detective and the fictionist who became a leading advocate of spiritualism provides an climatic showdown for Mr. Nassivera's speculative play.
The scenes preceding the great debate are considerably less stimulating than the showdown. But they are believably played by Mr. Baxter in an excellent performance as Sherlock and a cast that includes Lowry Miller as Inspector Lestrade, Sacha Von Scherler as Mrs. Hudson, and Munson Hicks as you know who. Frank J. Boros designed the cosily cluttered 1890s setting, with costumes by Christina Weppner and lighting by Robby Monk. This adveturous New York premiere is the ultimate Hudson Guild Theater production of the 1979/80 season.