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Review: Fooling with ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’

 In Lantern Theater Company's production of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' (from left): Daniel Fredrick, Damon Bonetti, and Dave Johnson. (Photo courtesy of Mark Garvin)

In Lantern Theater Company's production of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' (from left): Daniel Fredrick, Damon Bonetti, and Dave Johnson. (Photo courtesy of Mark Garvin)

Sherlock Holmes has been through so many iterations over the decades, it’s unlikely that his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, would recognize the guy. But even with all the monkey business that defines the stage adaptation of “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” he’d be able to find his plot somewhere in there.

It wouldn’t take him long to realize that if you go to “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” now at Lantern Theater Company, it’s not the show you’re going for. It’s the shtick.

Director Matt Pfeiffer provides all stage-jinx, and three actors — Damon Bonetti, Daniel Fredrick and Dave Johnston — bring it off with fine-tuned timing. The show is a goofy spoof in the same vein as the highly popular stage comedy “The 39 Steps,” although that one is more tightly tied to the movie it comes from than “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is to its book.

The plot, about a scary and mysterious hound ripping people to shreds on the moors, isn’t all that rich, so I wasn’t unhappy to see a spoof that isn’t chained to the story. Still, the first-act setup seems flat at times to me. The second half, though, is a sheer delight, beginning with a madcap recap of the first act and moving into super-silly and very funny antics.

Pfeiffer and his able trio of Philly-based pros make the most of doofus jokes (“Are you oxymoronic … or completely moronic?”) and lines that directly address the audience or refer to the show. (“We were expecting a Canadian accent,” one character says to another who’s supposed to be from Canada. “Yes,” replies the actor playing the character. “Well, I can’t do one.”)

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” is one of two detective send-ups on Center City stages at the same time. The other is “Murder for Two,” presented by Philadelphia Theatre Company. These constitute a mini-festival for the silly season, so get ready to laugh. And on the way, don’t let any dogs cross your path while you navigate the moors of Center City.

“The Hound of the Baskervilles,” produced by Lantern Theater Company, runs through June 28 at St. Stephen’s Theater on 10th Street at Ludlow, between Marlet and Chestnut Streets. 215-829-0395 orwww.lanterntheater.org.

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