Local playwright’s work, ‘Sherlock’s Last Case,’ opens in Burbank

Malibu resident Charles Marowitz's play, "Sherlock's Last Case" opens at the Colony Theatre in Burbank June 11.

Charles Marowitz’s play first premiered 21 years ago at the Los Angeles Theatre Centre.

By Ryan O’Quinn/Special to The Malibu Times

“It means, my dear Watson, that within a very short period of time, only days perhaps, there is every likelihood that I shall be murdered.”

The preceding excerpt is only one of the clever lines that Sherlock Holmes delivers in local dramatist Charles Marowitz’s play “Sherlock’s Last Case,” which previews on June 8 and opens on June 11 at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. Marowitz’s suspenseful story first premiered 21 years ago at the Los Angeles Theatre Center and has had successful runs ever since, including a stint on Broadway with Frank Langella in the title role.

“The idea of the play originated from the early Sherlock Holmes films I saw as a kid,” Marowitz said in an interview from Denmark, where he is currently lecturing. In those [films], Holmes (Basil Rathbone) treated Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) as if he were something of a retard. It was certainly not a relationship between equals and that is what caught my imagination.”

As the play unfolds, the audience learns that someone is trying to kill Sherlock Holmes and he must employ all his skills to find the truth, all the while comically maneuvering plot twists and revealing an exciting surprise in the last act.

“This is a wonderful thriller,” said Barbara Beckley, artistic director for the Colony Theatre. “And a very funny comedy, which re-imagines Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters in the most fiendishly clever of ways.”

Although Marowitz has directed countless plays, including performances at London’s Traverse Theater and The Royal Shakespeare Company, he will not be directing this production of his play.

“Our managing director had seen the show on Broadway when he was a youth,” said David Rose, director of the Colony’s production. “It had made an impression on him, he re-read it and gave it to the artistic director and she liked it and they gave it to me and I responded to it right away.”

Marowitz directed the original production of the play at the Olympic Arts Festival in Los Angeles where it won the Louis B. Mayer Playwriting Award and also directed the extended run of the production at the Mayfair in Santa Monica.

“I was called in to redirect the Kennedy Center production before the play opened on Broadway as the then director was experiencing difficulties,” Marowitz said. “I usually direct my own stuff. The New York production was an exception because producers felt it would be prejudicial to the play if the playwright was also the director.”

Marowitz said he was unaware of the production of his play at the Colony Theatre until a friend informed him a few days ago.

“Having originally directed it both in L.A. and Santa Monica then again in Washington, DC, followed by a production I mounted at the Oslo New Theatre in Norway, I find it particularly hard to sit through someone else’s version,” Marowitz said. “Although I accept that other directors can have their own interpretations and are entitled to them.”

In addition to being a renowned playwright, Marowitz has also authored more than two dozen books including the recently published “The Other Chekhov: A Biography of Michael Chekhov, the Legendary Actor, Director and Theorist.”

“I am very impressed with [Marowitz’s] works,” Rose said. “I am very aware of his illustrious career. I’m not re-interpreting this play. In general, I don’t sign on to do a play that I think needs fixing. When I read a script, I want to make this play live as wonderfully as I can and don’t feel that I have to put my personal stamp on it.”

Marowitz co-founded The Malibu Stage Co. in 1989 and also served as the company’s artistic director. He has traveled around the world lecturing, writing and directing. Prior to coming to Los Angeles, the author spent 24 years in London where his Open Space Theatre Company was hailed as one of the leading experimental theatres in the world.

Marowitz recently returned from the Czech Republic where he worked with former Czech president Vaclav Havel at the National Theater of the Czech Republic on the play “Temptation.” His latest play, “Murdering Marlowe,” was published by Dramatists Play Service earlier this year. The play premiered at The Malibu Stage Co. in 2002. Marowitz is currently traveling in Scandinavia working with professional theaters in Denmark and lecturing on Shakespeare.

“Sherlock’s Last Case” will have preview performances June 8 – 10 and will open on June 11 and run through July 10 at the Colony Theatre Company located at 555 North Third Street in Burbank. For more information and to obtain tickets call 818.558.7000 or visit www.colonytheatre.org