The joke goes that someone could win the caption-a-cartoon contest in the New Yorker every week by going with “Christ, what an asshole.” That sentiment captures the Sherlock Holmes in Charles Marowitz’s 1984 play, Sherlock’s Last Case, now in a stylish and witty revival at suburban First Folio under Janice L. Blixt’s direction. Kevin McKillip’s Holmes is an insufferable prat, prone to verbally abusing his Scottish housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson (Belinda Bremner), and casually putting down Dr. Watson (Joe Foust) when he’s not making the good doctor stir his stumps (war wound and all) down the stairs to pick up various missives.
A threatening letter arrives from a man purporting to be the son of the late Dr. Moriarty, Holmes’s archenemy (who “killed” the detective in 1893, until public outcry forced Arthur Conan Doyle to resurrect him). Holmes’s curiosity is piqued—even more so when Moriarty’s daughter, Liza (Lydia Hiller), arrives to warn him of her brother’s plans.
Various intriguing twists and turns emerge with enough Holmesian in-jokes to satisfy the faithful. But Marowitz’s real goal seems to be showing us Holmes as his creator grew to see him. Doyle once mournfully observed, “If I had never touched Holmes, who has tended to obscure my higher work, my position in literature would at the present moment be a more commanding one.” McKillip tears into the oblivious-jerk qualities of the detective with gusto, well matched by Foust as a long-suffering sidekick who is also beginning to question his friend’s high opinion of himself. v