Miss Holmes

EXTENDED through November 27!
Thu & Fri at 7:30pm, Sat at 4pm & 8pm, Sun at 4pm 
(No performance Nov. 24. No 4pm matinees Nov. 19 and 26)

“A wildly winning world premiere from Lifeline Theatre that injects fresh life into the Arthur Conan Doyle oeuvre”  –Time Out Chicago

“The place to be this fall in Chicago is Lifeline Theatre. Christopher M. Walsh’s “Miss Holmes” offers a cunning and highly enjoyable gender-bent take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s maddeningly brilliant detective.”  –Chicago Tribune

“A sterling origin tale of the Sherlock Holmes/Doctor Watson partnership with all the wit, mystery, and dynamism one would expect of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective; and a decidedly feminist take on that familiar tale.”  –Chicago Theatre & Concert Reviews

Miss Sherlock Holmes, possessor of one of the greatest deductive minds of her generation, finds herself regularly incarcerated for behaviors deemed abnormal in a “respectable” lady. Miss Dorothy Watson struggles to make a difference at the only hospital in England that will hire female doctors. These unconventional women, trapped in an era that refuses to accept them, must forge a bond of trust and work together to uncover the secrets surrounding a corrupt police investigator whose wives have a habit of turning up dead. A thrilling murder mystery that re-introduces familiar characters from the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle under a brand new light, in a world premiere production.

A new play inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
By Christopher M. Walsh 
Directed by Paul S. Holmquist

Special Performances
Audio Description and Touch Tour
Saturday, October 1
   Touch tour: 2:30pm
   Performance: 4:00pm

Open Captioning
Saturday, October 8 at 4:00pm

Visit our Accessibility page for more information.

Highlights from Miss Holmes. Music by Andrew Hansen. 

  • LaQuin Groves (Edwin Greener/Superintendent)

    LaQuin is very excited to be working with the Lifeline Theatre for the very first time. Chicago credits include the Vagrant in Incident on Run #1217(The Factory Theater) and the Carnival Barker in American Notes (Will Act For Food). Regional credits include Father in Children of Eden (Music Theater West), the Beast in Disney’s West Coast premiere of Beauty and the Beast (Theatrical Arts International) and The Bullfrog in Honk!(San Gabriel Civic Light Opera).

  • Chris Hainsworth (Mycroft Holmes)

    A proud ensemble member since 2010, Chris has been seen on the Lifeline stage in Talking it OverTreasure IslandNeverwhereThe Count of Monte CristoThe City & The CityThe Three MusketeersThe Killer Angels, and A Tale of Two Cities. He is responsible for the adaptations of HungerMonstrous Regiment, and Midnight Cowboy. Later this season, he will be adapting Aesop’s Fables for the KidSeries show Fable-ous! and directing Her Majesty’s Will. He can also be seen onstage with The House Theatre of Chicago’s Diamond Dogs, premiering in early 2017.

  • Abie Irabor (Mrs. Hudson/Dr. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson/Eudora Featherstone)

    Abie is excited to be making her Lifeline debut! Abie’s most recent Chicago credits include Gwen in A Song for Coretta (Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre); Casca in Julius Caesar (Brown Paper Box Theatre); Harriet Tubman (u/s) in the world premiere of The Raid (Jackalope Theatre); and Bethia in We’re Going to be Fine (The Theatre School). Abie received her MFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University in 2015. She is represented by Big Mouth Talent.

  • Christopher W. Jones (Inspector Lestrade)

    Christopher is excited to make his Lifeline Theatre debut. He graduated in 2016 with a MFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University, where credits include: Too Legit to Quit in The Translation of Likes, Seth Holly in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, John Henry in The Day John Henry Came to School, Jos-B in Elemeno Pea, and El Piragüero in In The Heights. Baltimore, MD area credits include: Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Spotlighters Theatre), Franco in Superior Donuts and George in Stop Kiss (Fells Point Corner Theatre), and Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing, Antipholus of Ephesus in Comedy of Errors, and Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Baltimore Shakespeare Factory).

  • Katie McLean Hainsworth (Sherlock Holmes)

    Katie has been a member of Lifeline’s ensemble since 2006. Her adaptation of The Mark of Zorro won the 2009 Non-Equity Jeff Award for New Adaptation, and she directed Watership Down (2011) and Johnny Tremain (2006) for the Mainstage. As an actor, favorite Lifeline productions include Miss Buncle’s BookMonstrous RegimentA Tale of Two CitiesThe Three MusketeersHungerNeverwhereMariette in EcstasyCrossing CaliforniaGaudy Night, and Cooking With Lard. A native of Central New York, Katie has since made Chicago her home, and appeared onstage with WildClaw, the Hypocrites, and Greasy Joan, among others.

  • Kate Nawrocki (Lizzie Chapman/Peggy/Martha)

    Kate is thrilled to be back at Lifeline where she was last seen in Crossing California. Recent credits include Pygmalion (Rogue), To the New Girl (The Foundling’s), and The Three Faces of Dr. Crippen (Fringe NYC) with the Strange Tree Group, where she is an ensemble member and Associate Artistic Director. Kate has performed with Pegasus, Pivot Arts, The Plagiarists, Collaboraction, Caffeine, and the Griffin. She is a graduate of Indiana University and has studied with The British American Drama Academy in Oxford, as well as Washington University’s Globe Education Program and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

  • Tim Newell (Thomas Chapman, Oct 29-Nov 27)

    After 21 years of life in Buffalo, NY, Tim is very pleased to call Chicago his new artistic home. Since August of 2015, Tim has appeared with Profiles Theatre in their seasonal hit, Hellcab. His one-man show, Mr. Benny (about legendary comedian Jack Benny), received a second successful run at Clockwise Theatre in Jack’s hometown of Waukegan; and, this past July, the show was given two lovely performances at the Skokie Theatre. Other Chicago credits: In the Heat of the Night(Shattered Globe Theatre) and Where’s the Rest of Me? (A Red Orchid). In 2012, he made his Midwestern/Chicago debut with SGT as William Cain in Rebecca Lenkiewiczs’ Her Naked Skin. Buffalo credits include Twelfth NightHenry VHamletRichard IIIAs You Like ItJulius Caesar(Shakespeare in Delaware Park). He holds four Artvoice Artie Awards for his work as actor and director; and in 2011, Tim was named Best Actor in Western New York by Buffalo’s Spree Magazine.

  • Michael Reyes (Dr. Michael Stamford/Reginald)

    Michael is very happy to be working with Lifeline for the first time. Most recently, he was in Stage Left’s production of Mutt, where he is an Artistic Associate. Prior to that, you may have seen in the world premiere of Animals Commit Suicide with First Floor Theater. He has played with other great Chicago companies, here and gone, including Theo Ubique, Promethean Theatre Ensemble, Muse of Fire, 20 Percent, New Suit, Pegasus, Backstage, Organic/Touchstone, Next, Chicago Opera Vanguard, and About Face. Thanks to Paul for this opportunity and humble thanks to you for coming out to see us!

  • John Henry Roberts (Thomas Chapman, Sep 9-Oct 28)

    John Henry is very pleased to return to Lifeline, having previously appeared in Jane EyreA Tale of Two CitiesHungerThe Moonstone, and Wuthering Heights. He is a member of Strawdog Theatre Company, where his acting credits include After Miss JulieOld TimesCherry Orchard, and Aristocrats (Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Actor in a Supporting Role). TV: Chicago P.D. Upcoming: The Little Flower of East Orange with Eclipse Theatre Company, Diamond Dogs with The House Theatre of Chicago, and The Night Season with Strawdog. He is represented by Paonessa Talent.

  • Mandy Walsh (Dr. Dorothy Watson)

    Mandy is thrilled to be back at Lifeline working on Miss Holmes. Previously, she has appeared in Monstrous Regiment and Watership Down, and understudied The Count of Monte Cristo. Some other favorite Chicago credits include Hotel AphroditeIncident on Run #1217 (Factory Theater), Carmilla (WildClaw Theatre), and The Ring Cycle (The Building Stage). She also has had the pleasure to work Stage Left Theatre, Fine Print Theatre Co., Babes with Blades, and Hobo Junction. Mandy is also a proud company member with both WildClaw Theatre and The Factory Theater.

  • Rasell Holt (Understudy)

    Rasell is excited to be joining Lifeline Theatre to work on Miss Holmes. Mr. Holt received his BFA from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Chicago credits include Ladies Night of the Living Dead (Random Acts), Prowess (Jackalope Theatre), and The Hairy Ape (Oracle Productions).

  • Jhenai Mootz (Understudy)

    Jhenai is constantly thrilled to work & learn at Lifeline where she also has worked on Sparky!Jane Eyre, and The Moonstone. Other credits around town: The Taming of the ShrewHamletTwelfth NightRichard IIIArms and the ManDancing at LughnasaMuch Ado About NothingMurder by the Book, and Picnic (Oak Park Festival Theatre); Major BarbaraSaint JoanMan and SupermanPygmalionThe Widowers’ HousesThe MillionairessMrs. Warren’s ProfessionArms and the Man (ShawChicago); The Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe (First Folio); and The Women and The Philadelphia Story (Circle Theatre). Also a visual artist, Jhenai’s artwork can currently be found in Lifeline’s lobby.

  • Siobhan Reddy-Best (Understudy)

    Siobhan is very pleased to be working with Lifeline Theatre for the very first time. Other Chicago credits include: Evie in In Love and Warcraft(Halcyon Theatre); Lucy Parsons in Hobohemia (Od Theatre). Regional credits include: Ensemble in This Beautiful City (Wilbury Theatre Group, RI). She is a proud ensemble member of Halcyon Theatre. In 2013, Siobhan received a BA Vassar College.

  • Timothy Sullivan (Understudy)

    Timothy is pleased to work with Lifeline Theatre for the first time. Other Chicago credits include: Arnold Crouch in Not Now, Darling! (Brightside Theatre); Sir Robin in Spamalot (Metropolis); the Duke(u/s) in Two Gentlemen of Verona (Oak Park Festival Theatre); Kahless Past in A Klingon Christmas Carol (Commedia Beauregard). Regional credits include: King Arthur in Camelot and Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night (Oxford Shakespeare Festival); Chip in The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee (Red Barn Summer Theatre). Timothy is a company member of Commedia Beauregard. He received his BA and BM from Lawrence University and MFA from WIU.

  • Christopher M. Walsh (Adaptor)

    Christopher is a proud member of the artistic ensemble at Lifeline Theatre. He was nominated for a Non-Equity Jeff Award for his adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities. Other Lifeline writing credits include Soon I Will Be InvincibleThe City & The City, and The Count of Monte Cristo. He is also the Literary Manager of WildClaw Theatre, where his radio plays Comparing Notes at the End of the World and Fracture Zonewere a finalist and winner, respectively, of Deathscribe, and his one-act play The Hunters was presented as part of the live horror anthology Motel 666.

  • Paul S. Holmquist (Director)

    Paul joined the Lifeline Ensemble in 2006. He has directed the KidSeries shows Rikki Tikki TaviFlight of the DodoNaked Mole Rat Gets DressedThe Mystery of the Pirate Ghost, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins; and the MainStage productions of The Island of Dr. MoreauBusman’s HoneymoonNeverwhereThe MoonstoneThe Count of Monte Cristo, and Soon I Will Be Invincible. Paul holds a BFA in Acting from the Theatre School at DePaul University.

  • Becky Bishop (Stage Manager)

    Becky is excited to be back working with Paul and with Lifeline on Miss Holmes. Past Lifeline shows include Miss Buncle’s BookSoon I Will Be InvincibleJane EyreMonstrous Regiment, and The City & The City. Other productions in Chicago include: Prowess (Jackalope Theatre); The Dead PrinceThe Half Brothers MendelssohnFuneral Wedding: The Alvin Play(Strange Tree); Robber BridegroomLetters Home, and Stage Door(Griffin Theatre). Additional productions have been with Steep, Caffeine Theatre, and The Gift. She’s been a non-Equity stage manger in Chicago since 2006.

  • Morgan Gire (Assistant Stage Manager)

    Morgan is thrilled to be working on her first show with Lifeline Theatre. She graduated from the University of Iowa in 2010 and has had the pleasure of working with such companies as Adventure Stage Chicago, Strawdog Theatre’s Hugen Hall, Awkward Pause Theatre and Chicago Sketchfest. She has also stage managed for TEDx Chicago and The Chicago Film Critic’s Association. She is a company member with Nothing Special Productions and is the primary stage manager for their Fight Night series.

  • Andrew Hansen (Original Music & Sound Designer)

    Andy returns to Lifeline where previous credits include A Tale of Two CitiesTreasure Island, and Hunger. He is an Associate Artist with TimeLine Theatre, where he recently designed Bakersfield Mist. Other Chicago credits include work with Writers Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and Shattered Globe Theatre. Regional credits include Indiana Repertory Theatre, Summer Shakespeare at Notre Dame, and American Players Theatre.

  • Jordan Kardasz (Lighting Designer)

    Jordan is excited to light her first Mainstage show here at Lifeline. Assistant design credits at Lifeline include Jane EyreWoman in WhiteHungerand Neverwhere. KidSeries design credits include Thumbelina(Oct. 2016); Mr. Popper’s PenguinsLions in IllyriaClick, Clack, BOO!Duck for PresidentHow to Survive a Fairy Tale, and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. Jordan has worked with lots of companies around town including The Factory, Sideshow, and Strawdog (where she is an ensemble member). She holds an MFA in Design from Ohio State University and works as the Technical Director at Northeastern Illinois University.

  • Elise Kauzlaric (Dialect Coach)

    Elise has been a member of Lifeline’s artistic ensemble since 2005 and has coached numerous productions (The Killer AngelsThe MoonstoneThe Picture of Dorian GrayThe Mark of ZorroThe Piano Tuner, et al). She has also coached for Steppenwolf, TimeLine, Irish Theatre of Chicago, Griffin Theatre, Backstage, Signal Ensemble, the Hypocrites and others. Twice nominated for Non-Equity Jeff Awards for her dialect work (Busman’s Honeymoon at Lifeline and Punk Rock at Griffin), she also directs and acts around town, receiving a Non-Equity Jeff nomination for her direction of Mariette in Ecstasy (Lifeline) and Supporting Actress nomination for her work in On the Shore of the Wide World (Griffin). Elise also teaches at CCPA at Roosevelt University. Next up at Lifeline, Elise will direct A Wrinkle in Time.

  • Holly McCauley (Properties Designer)

    Holly is a Chicago-based props designer who is thoroughly enjoying her first production with Lifeline. She has designed shows with many companies, including Sideshow, the Ruckus, First Floor Theatre, The Inconvenience, 20% Theatre, Metropolis Theatre, and the side project. Upcoming productions include Young Frankenstein at Metropolis and The Mars Assignment with Collaboraction. Holly served as the assistant props designer for The Marriott Theatre’s world premiere of October Sky, and TimeLine Theatre’s Chimerica. She is a proud member of Tympanic Theatre Company.

  • Greg Poljacik (Fight Choreographer)

    In addition to being the inventor of the secret recipe for Gravity & Momentum’s stage blood products, Greg has been working as a teacher and choreographer for over a decade, providing award-winning choreography for over two dozen theater companies in Chicago. Currently Greg teaches stage combat at The Second City Training Center and is a Research Consultant in the field of Cognitive/Behavioral Neuroscience. Greg also has been a guest lecturer at Columbia College Chicago and has taught at Regional workshops across the country, including co-coordinating the Winter Wonderland Workshop, the largest stage combat conference in the US. Greg is a teacher with the United Stuntmen’s Association, a member of SAG/AFTRA, SAFD, AGMA, and LBP stunts Chicago. All of his work in the art of stage combat follows the principles of “Safety, Story, Substance.”

  • Maren Robinson (Dramaturg)

    Maren is delighted to be dramaturg for Miss Holmes. She is a proud Lifeline ensemble member and has been dramaturg for productions of NeverwhereThe MoonstoneHungerPride and PrejudiceThe Woman in White, and Northanger Abbey. She has been dramaturg for forty-eight productions with theaters such as Court, Strawdog, Eclipse, and TimeLine Theatre, where she is a company member and resident dramaturg. She has toured with Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, and was an artistic intern at Steppenwolf. She holds an MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago, teaches at the Theatre School at DePaul and is Associate Director of the Master of Arts Program in Humanities at the University of Chicago. Maren is regional Vice President for the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.

  • Rachel M. Sypniewski (Costume Designer)

    Rachel is thrilled to be returning to Lifeline after previously designing Midnight Cowboy. Among her favorite Chicago credits are Titanic: The Musical (Griffin; Non-Equity Jeff nomination: Best Costume Design); La Bete (Trap Door; Non-Equity Jeff Award: Best Costume Design); The Ghost is Here (Vitalist); Tiger at the Gates (Promethean; Broadway World nomination for Best Costume Design); Universal WolfFairytale Lives of Russian GirlsThe Balcony (Trap Door); Hotel Aphrodite‘NamosaurHey! Dancin’! Hey! Musical! (Factory); and Caucasian Chalk Circle (Wheaton College). Rachel is the resident costume designer for Trap Door and a company member with the Factory.

  • Emily Wills (Assistant Director)

    Emily is thrilled to be in the rehearsal room for Miss Holmes. Emily’s past work with Lifeline includes being a proud member of Lifeline’s Box Office staff, and a teaching artist for weekly KidSeries workshops. Emily is also a participant in the Lifeline Storytelling Project at Redline Tap. She sends her thanks to the Lifeline family. Emily can also be found teaching with Raven Theatre and the Lycee Francais. Emily graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in Theatre.

  • Ashley Ann Woods (Scenic Designer)

    Ashley is thrilled to be working with Lifeline for the first time! Her recent Chicago credits include Posh (Steep); DistanceWith Love & a Major Organ (Strawdog); Heathers: the MusicalTomorrow Morning (Kokandy); Even Longer and Farther Away (New Colony); Connected(Collaboraction); Rent (Metropolis); and The Raid (Jackalope) among others. Ashley is currently the charge painter at Means of Production as well as a Company Member with 20% Theatre Chicago and Collaboraction.

, http://footlights.com/media/1381776/lifelinetheatre_missholmes.pdf,

From the Chicago Tribune

Twists, turns and a feminist insight in ‘Miss Holmes’ 
September 21, 2016 
By Kerry Reid


Calling all Baker Street Irregulars: The place to be this fall in Chicago is Lifeline Theatre. Christopher M. Walsh’s “Miss Holmes” offers a cunning and highly enjoyable gender-bent take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s maddeningly brilliant detective.

You’ll look in vain for a deerstalker cap, but other familiar elements are in place, including the cozy-but-cluttered sitting room at 221B Baker St., presented in Ashley Ann Woods’ set as an elevated sanctuary whose bookshelves burst with signs of curiosity — skulls, chemistry sets and the like. It suggests both the heightened intellect at work there and a place of refuge above the shadowy gaslit streets of London. (Nicely realized in Jordan Kardasz’s lighting design, and also augmented by Andrew Hansen’s ominous original music and soundscape.)

Gaslighting is definitely part of the game that is afoot here. When we first see her, Katie McLean Hainsworth’s Sherlock is wrapped in a straitjacket, sporting a black eye from a fight in the asylum where her brother, Mycroft, (played by Hainsworth’s husband, Chris Hainsworth), has dumped her. The siblings have, needless to say, a fraught relationship, brought on in part by Mycroft’s own mysterious government work — work that his inquisitive sister endangers from time to time.

In Walsh’s telling, this female Sherlock’s caseload is built primarily out of powerless-but-endangered women, such as Lizzie Chapman (Kate Nawrocki), the third wife of Scotland Yard detective Thomas Chapman (John Henry Roberts), whose previous spouses died under suspicious circumstances. (Paging Drew Peterson!) Lizzie shows up at Baker Street with an anonymous letter, warning her to leave her husband. Meantime, Inspector Lestrade (Christopher W. Jones) has his own suspicions about Chapman’s past that cause him to join forces with Holmes and Watson.

Both Walsh’s text and director Paul S. Holmquist’s staging feel a bit mannered in the early scenes. But particularly once Mandy Walsh’s Dr. Dorothy Watson is fully on board with her new roomie’s schemes, the fun really begins. Walsh manages the tricky task of providing both old-school fan service (Hainsworth’s Sherlock, even with a black eye, can tell almost everything about Dorothy’s educational background on first glance) and feminist insight.

If you peek into the narrative corners, you can see shadowy suggestions of everything from the Jack the Ripper slayings to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” in which a Victorian woman who, like Sherlock, prizes the life of the mind is treated as a nervous hysteric.

Walsh’s script suggests that his Sherlock does have some real issues with mental health — which is one reason a friendship with someone like Dorothy offers solace and security. The intricate relationship between Mycroft and Sherlock gets teased out gradually, but with good effect. The two may disdain “sentiment,” but they understand each other more than they care to admit.

Watson’s past also includes tough struggles as a woman fighting (literally, in one remembered instance) to finish her medical education. She becomes more than just a loyal companion in Walsh’s telling. She is a needed buffer between Sherlock and the rest of the world.

While the terrific performances from Hainsworth’s Sherlock and Walsh’s Watson dominate the story, the supporting turns offer some fun interludes. Michael Reyes’ Dr. Michael Stamford, would-be fiance to Dorothy Watson, goes to town impersonating a German physician in a scheme to liberate Sherlock from the asylum once again. It’s a delicious take on the familiar straight-arrow character who finds that he enjoys a walk on the wild side. Roberts is appropriately cold and menacing as Chapman, and Abie Irabor delivers solid work in the trifecta of playing Watson’s boss at the hospital, Holmes’ exasperated landlady and the grieving mother of one of Chapman’s deceased wives.

Nawrocki’s seemingly dizzy Miss Lizzie delivers what could be the leitmotif for all the women in this male-dominated world when she responds to Sherlock’s observation, “You’re good at being underestimated” with, “Aren’t we all?” A certain female presidential candidate might have something to say on that score. And doesn’t it make sense that being invisible to most of society makes one a greater detective of human behavior than being the center of privilege and attention?

“Miss Holmes” doesn’t turn the Doyle mythology completely upside down, and some of the twists are pretty easy to see coming down the pike. But Walsh’s take suggests, with sympathy and wit, that being the world’s greatest detective is even harder when one is metaphorically doing it backward and in high heels.

From the Time Out Chicago

A simple gender swap brings fresh new life to the beloved detective and his companion 
October 3, 2016 
By Allison Shoemaker


Sometimes the accents wander a bit, and it might be five minutes too long.

With that, there’s nothing negative left to say about Miss Holmes, a wildly winning world premiere from Lifeline Theatre that injects fresh life into the Arthur Conan Doyle oeuvre through the simple expedience of making Holmes and Watson both female. While that may sound gimmicky, the result is anything but. Playwright Christopher M. Walsh and director Paul S. Holmquist unearth new resonances in familiar aspects of the Holmesian world, all while remaining loyal to what the world has found compelling about Doyle’s stories for so many years.

And what makes the Conan Doyle stories so enduring? Holmes and Watson, of course. There’s nothing here that feels like pandering, no sense that a woman’s merely stepping into a pair of men’s shoes for the night. This Holmes and this Watson could only exist in this play, familiar in all the essentials—Holmes brilliant, troubled, lacking social grace and empathy; Watson sensible, loyal, equal parts dazzled and frustrated by her companion—but still utterly new. Their femininity is a fact, not a feature. Holmes is Holmes, Watson is Watson. They are largely the same, but the way in which the world reacts to them is dramatically different.

Much credit is due to the playwright, of course, but in any Holmes and Watson adaptation, things go nowhere without a worthy duo inhabiting those roles. In Katie McLean Hainsworth and Mandy Walsh, Holmquist and casting director Lavina Jadhwani have found a pair more than capable of rising to the occasion. Hainsworth and Walsh are a dynamite pair, nimbly leaping between expertly-landed punchlines and moments of pathos, imbuing both characters with humanity, dignity and fierce intelligence—Hainsworth in particular, whose performance is laced with an attention to detail that Holmes would likely appreciate. There’s no showboating, and no sense that either performer (or character) feels the need to prove anything to anyone. They’re here to do the work, dammit, and they do it extremely well.

They’re not alone. The rest of the ensemble, most of whom tackle multiple roles, enter Holmquist’s story with the same verve and vigor of the two leads. It’s difficult to identify standouts in a cast full of them, but Michael Reyes carries the play’s single funniest scene almost single-handedly, and Kate Nawrocki earns great empathy as the pair’s first, and largely unwilling, client.

The excellence continues: Ashley Ann Woods’s sumptuous scene design makes great use of Lifeline’s space, giving director Holmquist a chance to stage chase scenes through the London streets and tete a tetes inside 221B with equal ease. Rachel M. Sypniewski outfits the ensemble in period wear rich in texture and color, enabling the actors to deftly switch roles with ease—and never has seeing a female character step out in a pair of pants been quite so thrilling. Lighting (Jordan Kardasz), props (Holly McCauley), original music and sound (Andrew Hansen)—all excellent. And Holmquist uses all to great effect, offering up a staging that’s equal parts technical achievement and thoughtful interpretation.

Miss Holmes offers much in the way of pleasure to theatergoers. It’s fun, it’s thoughtful, it’s compelling and empowering and unexpected. But of all the delights it grants audiences, there’s one that surpasses the rest: It leaves plenty of room for, and even demands, a sequel. If there’s any justice in the world, we’ll get one. Should something this enjoyable find its way to a second chapter? Why, that’s elementary.

From Chicago Theatre & Concert Reviews

‘Miss Holmes’ a Delightfully Feminist Twist on an Old Tale 
September 21, 2016 
By Peter Thomas Ricci


“Miss Holmes,” the world-premiere production that kicks off Lifeline Theatre’s 2016-2017 season, is two things at once: a sterling origin tale of the Sherlock Holmes/Doctor Watson partnership with all the wit, mystery, and dynamism one would expect of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective; and a decidedly feminist take on that familiar tale, one that casts women in the roles of Holmes and Watson.

As with all Holmes tales, the setup is a simple one: Sherlock, recently sprung from prison by her brother Mycroft, is tasked by a seemingly fearful, naive wife of modest means to find out who is sending her letters of a warning nature – specifically, that her husband, a respected (albeit corrupt and feared) member of the Scotland Yard, is plotting to murder her. With her newly recruited sidekick, a disgruntled Dr. Watson, Holmes takes on the case, not knowing where it will ultimately lead. To reveal too much of the plot would spoil all the fun, but suffice to say, the action features numerous twists and turns, with the ultimate revelation being one of pure joy…with grisly undertones.

The key here is the casting and scripting. Holmes and Watson are such familiar characters that any actor risks mere replication, but Katie McLean Hainsworth’s Holmes and Mandy Walsh’s Watson are true originals, and they are complemented beautifully by Lifeline’s dialogue, which positively cackles with energy and delights in its commentary on Victorian England. Courtesy of Christopher M. Walsh, whose adaptation of “A Tale of Two Cities” was sublime, “Miss Holmes” never overplays its feminist politics, preferring instead to slowly build how disadvantaged Holmes and Watson are as intelligent, independent women in a society that so clearly does not value such attributes.

The entire cast is equally terrific: Chris Hainsworth relishes Mycroft’s thorniness; Abie Irabor is absolutely charming in her multiple roles; Christopher W. Jones, who was terrific in a number of DePaul productions while he was a student there, makes an excellent impression as Inspector Lestrade; and Michael Reyes, who was very funny in Stage Left’s production of “Mutt,” generates arguably the biggest laughs of the night with some of the most wildly gesticulated German on a Chicago stage.

From Splash Magazines

A Must-See Mystery at Lifeline Theatre 
September 21, 2016 
By Suzanne Magnuson

“Miss Holmes,” currently playing at the Lifeline Theatre from September 9–October 30, is a gender-swapped reimagining of Holmes and Watson. This may put some people off from the very first, but if you allow it to sway you, you will be missing as fine and entertaining a Sherlock Holmes play as any ever staged. Because that is what this is, A Sherlock Holmes play with all the characters you remember behaving as they characteristically do.

Holmes is brilliant and a master of deductive reasoning. Watson is empathetic and brave and clever. Lestrade is honest, but at a loss. Mycroft is mysterious and overbearing. Mrs. Hudson, traditional and motherly.

The play’s conceit is to invite us to imagine if the characters we know and love had been born at the same time, only as women. What challenges would they have faced in expressing their innate natures? This is the question the play by Christopher M. Walsh sets for itself while at the same time giving us an original Sherlock Holmes mystery to be investigated and solved using Holmes’ patented methods.

It is, in fact, when Holmes is using ratiocination to tell us all about someone that the play truly shines, as does Katie McLain Hainsworth as Sherlock Holmes. Her interpretation leans a bit more on contemporary, eternally-exasperated and rapid-fire Cumberbatch than note-perfect, snide Brett, but her Holmes is a credit to Conan Doyle’s creation as read on the pages of his stories and novels. She sometimes speaks a bit too quickly, and as some of the blocking has her turning away from the audience to speak to various other characters, sometimes the ends of her lines are lost. And there are great, intelligent and funny lines in this play. It’s a shame to lose any of them.

The playwright, Christopher M. Walsh, should particularly be commended. He has captured both Holmes and Watson’s characteristic ways of speaking and translated them to an entirely new mystery. One that is engaging and contains a twist or two and uses the fact that the main characters are now women to further the action and the plot. The gender-swap is not a bug, it’s a feature.

The fact that Holmes and Watson are now women merely adds a few more hurdles in their way, which the play deals with excellently. It’s clearly a feminist take on the subject and does shine a light on what women of the era faced when they attempted behavior deemed radically unconventional, but no more so than does George Gissing, Thomas Hardy or Virginia Woolf.

There are numerous callbacks to obscure bits of Sherlockiana including Stamford, the man who introduces Holmes and Watson in “A Study in Scarlet,” appearing here as Watson’s prospective beau and actually helping them at a crucial moment (and played charmingly by Michael Reyes). Holmes’ Baker Street Irregulars becoming Sherlock’s Knitting Circle consisting of a network of nosy old ladies and shop girls passing on all the news as well as other examples.

Mandy Walsh as Dr. Dorothy Watson is not only everything one could ask for in a stalwart sidekick, but she makes a case for the women who struggled to pioneer medicine as well. And her accent, voice and delivery is so very much like Deborah Kerr that it’s almost uncanny. While her scenes with Holmes are wonderful, she carries much of the play, herself, and that is just fine, as she is a superb Watson. Watson is our narrator, after all, and her point of view is what draws us in. I have no idea why she is not Jane Watson, however, an interesting choice on the playwright’s part.

The basic plot set up also stems from the gender-swapped nature of Holmes and Watson. The fact that they are women allows women to come to them in confidence with their problems, problems they don’t dare discuss with men. And that is where the mystery begins as Mrs. Lizzie Chapman, wife of Detective Chapman of Scotland Yard, needs help to discover who is behind the mysterious letters she is receiving warning her to beware of her husband.

I can’t discuss more without giving away portions of the mystery, but I need to laud the supporting cast, who do a great deal of heavy lifting, many in multiple, diverse and interesting roles. Abie Irabor is a delight whenever she’s on stage, whether she’s grumbling about irregularity as Mrs. Hudson, mentoring Watson as Dr. Anderson or engaging in geriatric paranoia as Eudora Featherstone. Kate Nawrocki as the client, Mrs. Chapman, the maid Peggy, or Martha, parades different regional and ethnic accents, physical attitudes and makes you forget you just saw her a moment ago as someone else. LaQuin Groves plays two characters of entirely different social classes and educational levels to the point where you can imagine their lives beyond the confines of the play. John Henry Roberts as Det. Chapman is as menacing a heavy as you could wish and bleeds lower-class London striver all over the stage. And Christopher Jones is the nicest Lestrade ever, and I’m going to fault or credit the writing here. Lestrade in Doyle comes off both dim and self-serving and is usually played a bit less posh than he appears here. This Lestrade is a dedicated public servant who understands his own limitations as is willing to go out on a limb to help Holmes when he sees she might be able to give him the proof he needs to close a case. He’s warm and sympathetic and you like him very much.

The show is well lighted, well designed, well costumed (other than Watson’s trousers) and you can mostly hear well except when Holmes turns toward the back of the stage in the “Baker Street” portion of the set. The one real oddity is the level of refrigeration in the space, however. I have never attended a theatre where they felt compelled to put blankets on the chairs. I was very grateful for mine by the second act. Take a sweater when you go. Because you should go, right away, and see this wonderful, original Sherlock Holmes mystery.

From Newcity

A Woman’s Eye 
October 3, 2016 
By Irene Hsiao


Sherlock Holmes was the greatest detective England has ever known. Sherlock Holmes operated on a simple method of observation, ratiocination and deduction. Sherlock Holmes amplified the scratch, the mote, the speck and the drop to definitive narratives of disposition and culpability. Augmenting a consummate sensitivity with an intellect capable of accommodating such a faculty, there was but one miniscule detail about his notorious hero that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle omitted from the view of his Victorian audience: Sherlock Holmes was a woman. More than one hundred years after Holmes’s first appearance, Christopher M. Walsh takes the thought experiment to its logical conclusion in his new play “Miss Holmes,” directed by Paul S. Holmquist and executed with precision, pluck and commitment in a riveting production by the Lifeline Theatre Ensemble.

What if Holmes were a woman? Would she be able to roam at ease from Scotland Yard to the opium dens, scratch out melancholy ruminations on her violin at all hours, conduct chemistry experiments at home, ruthlessly demand tea and obedience from Mrs. Hudson, freely castigate Lestrade? Would she have a band of rambunctious youths at her beck and call? Would helpless women weep in her Baker Street flat, faint smudges on their otherwise white gloves revealing the provenance of the hansom driver that had gone a circuitous route to the door? What if Dr. Watson were also a woman—would she be able to assert her diagnoses so resolutely, demand first audience with bleeding victims, wield her little pistol with the cool aplomb of ownership?

Walsh’s lonely Holmes (Katie McLean Hainsworth) is sorely in need of the companionship found in her doughty second, Watson (Mandy Walsh), a spirited rebel who hasn’t forgotten her part in the Surgeon’s Hall Riot of 1870, where she and other women resisted humiliation and abuse to study medicine. Together, they investigate the mysterious deaths of several women, thwarting not only the nefarious schemes of murderers and crime bosses but also the patronizing supervision of Holmes’s brother Mycroft (Chris Hainsworth), who pays Watson to inform upon and chaperone a sister whose acuity is conflated with madness.

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