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Castaways Repertory Theatre Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four

By • Oct 4th, 2008 • Category: Reviews

Listen to our review of Castaways Repertory Theatre’s production of Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four [MP3 3:04 2.8MB].

Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four
Castaways Repertory Theatre
A.J. Ferlazzo Building, Woodbridge, VA
Through October 18th

This is the Show Biz Radio Review of Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four, performed by Castaways Repertory Theatre in Woodbridge, Virginia. We saw the performance on opening night Friday, October 3, 2008.

Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four is a play written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, adapted by Dr. Shanghai Low. The story is set in 1888. The Sign of the Four has a complex plot involving a murder, service in Colonial India, a stolen treasure and a secret pact among four ex-convicts.

Tonight’s performance had some technical problems that hurt the show’s pace. Several of the characters had some troubles with their lines that caused the opening night performance to drag. The actors did keep English accents throughout the performance, although this did make it difficult at times to understand what they were saying. The production had a large cast of sixteen.

Herb Tax played the title character Sherlock Holmes. Tax’s performance was a bit flat. Sherlock Holmes seemed more interested in the process of catching the murderer than actually catching him. Perhaps Holmes could have gotten more energetic and excited during the “chase” scenes, rather than simply plodding along arrogantly.

Dan Yount played his associate and friend Dr. John Watson. Yount seemed to take himself too seriously for the role. He was used to Holmes’ method of solving crimes and not much surprised him any more. Despite his obvious infatuation with Mrs. Marston (Colleen Close), their relationship lacked a spark, making their decision to marry at the end of the play a surprise.

Marji Jepperson played Mrs. Hudson, Holmes’ housekeeper. Mrs. Hudson was also serious, but did become overwrought on occasion. Jepperson let that emotion show on her face well and was quite comical. Paul Rubenstein as Thaddeus Sholto “channeling” Major Edward Sholto was also rather humorous.

The set for Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four was primarily the office at the home of Sherlock Holmes, with a nice complete set with significant furniture, books, and other set dressing creating a very comfortable study. Unfortunately, only a few scenes took place at that location, so all other scenes had to be created by the actors with very simple props and furniture, which wasn’t effective in continuing the tone produced by Holmes’ study.

Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of the Four ran two hours and twenty minutes with one intermission. It is playing through Saturday October 18. Friday and Saturdays at 8 pm with a matinee performance on Saturday the 11th at 1:00, at the A.J. Ferlazzo Building in Woodbridge Virginia.

Once you’ve seen the show, please feel free to leave a comment here on our website at ShowBiz We’d also like to invite you to join our free mailing list so you can stay informed with theater events in the DC Region.

And now, on with the show.

Director’s Notes

I first encountered Sherlock Holmes when I was in the 8th grade. I immediately became enamored of the famous fictional detective and read everything about him that I could get my hands on. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories enriched my life and educated me in the ways of logical problem solving. Directing this play has been a wonderful experience, bringing back all of those find memories from my younger years spent enthralled with Holmes, Watson, Mrs. Hudson, and all of the colorful characters I was introduced to.

The Sign of the Four is based on the 2nd full length novel written by sir Arthur Conan Doyle about the colorful adventures of Sherlock Holmes. A Study in Scarlet was produced two years before The Sign of the Four. Doyle was commissioned to write The Sign of the Four over an August 30, 1889, dinner with Joseph M. Stoddart, managing editor of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, at the Langham Hotel in London. Stoddart wanted to produce an English version of Lippincott’s with a British editor and British contributors. The dinner was also attended by Oscar Wilde, who eventually contributed The Picture of Dorian Gray to the July 1890 issue. Doyle discussed what he called this “golden evening” in his 1924 autobiography Memories and Adventures.

The novel first appeared in the February 1890 edition of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine as The Sign of the Four (five-word title), appearing in both London and Philadelphia. The British edition of the magazine originally sold for a shilling, and the American for 25 cents. Surviving copies are now worth several thousand dollars.

Over the following few months in the same year, the novel was then re-published in several regional British journals. These re-serialisations gave the title as The Sign of Four (four-word title). The novel was published in book form in October 1890 by Spencer Blackett, again using the title The Sign of Four. The title of both the British and American editions of this first book edition omitted the second “the” of the original title. Different editions over the years have varied between the two forms of the title, with most editions favoring the four-word form. Beginning in 1891, 56 short stories were published in Strand Magazine, making household names of Sherlock Holmes and his creator.

I cannot thank everyone in the cast, crew and staff enough for all of the work they have done. I hope you enjoy the show! 🙂 Zina

Portions of this text are from Director’s Notes are Copyright 2008 Zina Bleck for Castaways Repertory Theatre, Reprinted with permission.


  • Sherlock Holmes: Herb Tax
  • Dr, John Watson: Dan Yount
  • Miss Mary Morstan: Colleen Close
  • Mrs. Hudson: Marji Jepperson
  • Billy: Kristin Miner
  • Ahuja Ravishnu: Lynn Lacey
  • Achmet/Raja Mahendra: Michele Shelton
  • Tonga Paramesh: Katherine Biscula
  • Thaddeus Sholto, Major Edward Sholto: Paul Rubenstein
  • McMurdo, Inspector Althelney Jones, Postman: Lynn Taylor
  • Mrs. Chada Bernstone: Eleni Aldridge
  • Police Sergeant, Captain Morstan: David Forcier
  • Mrs. Cecil Forrester: Kat Zwingle
  • Mrs. Smith: Jan Dylewski
  • Dr, Mortimer Small: Gavin Tameris
  • Wiggins: Amber Miner


  • Producer/Director: Zina Bleck
  • Stage Manager: Natalie Woods
  • Set Designer: Jarett Baker
  • Master Builder: Jarett Baker, Gavin Tameris
  • Set Construction: Jarett Baker, Matthew Hagadorn, Meghan Lasitter, John G. McCracken Jr., Justin Miner, Gavin Tameris, Herb Tax, Ken Woods, Natalie Woods
  • Set Painting: Katherine Biscula, Zina Bleck, Kathy Sahlberg
  • Set Décor: Pat Jannell, Kris Miner, Michele Shelton
  • Properties: Zina Bleck, Udo Goff, Gavin Tameris, Herb Tax
  • Light Designer: Lisa Johnston
  • Sound Designer: Lynn Lacey
  • Sound/Lighting Operators: Mary Brick, John G. McCracken Jr., Natalie Woods
  • Special Effects: Gavin Tameris (Peg Leg)
  • Hair/Makeup: Lolita Marie
  • Costumes: Zina Bleck, Marji Jepperson
  • Front of House: Kathy Sahlberg
  • Cover Art: Herb Tax
  • Publicity: Zina Bleck, Don Wilson
  • Photography: Zina Bleck
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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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