‘Sherlock Holmes’ mixes dance and death, Letta Neely speaks | Rochester Fringe Festival

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  • PHOTO BY MATT BURKHARTT
  • KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival’s “Sherlock Holmes: The Loss at Whitechapel”, presented on September 20, 2021 at the Theater at Innovation Square, combines the mystery of classical murder with modern dance.


Murder mystery on a Monday

Before seeing “Sherlock Holmes: The Loss at Whitechapel” I was skeptical of what modern dance could possibly add to a murder mystery. Turns out it can improve the narrative to a great extent.

The description of the show provided by the Keybank Rochester Fringe Festival for the thriller’s Monday night premiere does not reveal the ending. But if you’re aware of the infamous real-life incidents in Whitechapel, London – as I was – you might be warned of what goes on in the plot.

Performed at the newly opened theater in Innovation Square by the Rawhide Theater Company of New York and the draMAStic Dance Works of Virginia, the 80-minute Sherlock Holmes original story by Cat Yudain flew at a breathtaking pace with the help of a great storytelling that hooks you with a classic maintaining plot. The captivating acting was complemented by dazzling choreography, as well as set design and costumes that provided sharp visual nuances to exemplify Holmes’ infallible and ever-moving spirit.

The premise is that a toy maker in London’s East End is dead and detective duo Holmes-Watson are taking on the case.

If you see the spectacle, what you will see is a thousand times more captivating and wild than you might expect from the description provided. After all, recent Sherlock Holmes covers (especially the one starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) show just how ripe the material is for enduringly compelling storytelling.

Fair warning, however – don’t see this show if you experience seizures triggered by flashing lights. A strobe effect kicks in twice for a few minutes during the production’s dance sequences, creating a tense stop-motion feel in the action. The first use of this technique occurs almost immediately.

The show opens with a figure whose face is enveloped, standing menacingly over a body on a stage flooded with blood-red light. Quickly, the scene swings into an immediate flashback that hesitantly (in that strobe light) gives a glimpse into how the Toymaker was killed. It stinks of foul play but almost nothing else is certain.

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PHOTO BY MATT BURKHARTT

Rotating aftermarket mini-sets changes the scene from time to time. Now we’re in Holmes and Watson’s office at 221B Baker Street, with the two settled into their huddled armchairs when a new business arises. She is the murdered man’s sister. She provides them with a complete police file on her brother and his murder.

Immediately after Holmes gives Watson a quick explanation of what he learned within seconds of observing the sister, he notes that several things are not being followed in this case. From there, the audience rides a whirlwind of dance and drama that alternate and then combine in a climax just before the conclusion.

The actors beautifully capture the forgivable arrogance of anxious drug addict scholar Sherlock Holmes and the serious – and by turns patient and exasperated – Dr John Watson. The dancers bring a more intimate nuance to the narration. And the multimedia presentation of the endlessly twisted plot makes the toy maker complicit in solving his own murder, provides an incredible amount of detail that turns out to be meaningful, and results in a heart-wrenching ending that truly leaves you feeling the eternal frustration. detectives facing wrongs not committed. straightened.

You can still attend this show on Tuesday, September 21 at 6 p.m. and Wednesday, September 22 at 8 p.m. The show is suitable for ages 13 and up and tickets cost $ 15 ($ 10 for students with ID). More info here. – RR

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Poet Letta Neely presents

  • PHOTO BY ASHLEIGH DESKINS
  • Poet Letta Neely presents “Geographoes of Power” at Java’s Cafe on September 20, 2021, as part of the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival.

The poignant poetry of Letta Neely

The snaps of approval fingers at Beat Generation cafes of the 1950s gave way to the ecstatic moan of espresso machines.

Poet Letta Neely hails from the Indiana Bible belt. “As a seawall you can imagine it was a bit tumultuous,” she said. “Well, a lot of uproar. “

Reading in front of a comfortable audience in a living room in a small room, Java’s Cafe, Neely admitted to being nervous, but her relaxed demeanor belied her harsh words and the intense sexuality of the content.

“Geographies of Power” is one of those Rochester Fringe events that announces, to those who haven’t paid attention, that gays, bisexuals, transgender people and people of color – as well as drug addicts and the abused – share the cafes with the right and the narrow. And to claim otherwise is a lie.

As the Java’s Cafe portraits gazed at the walls in approval, Neely stressed the importance of authenticity. Although “It’s dangerous,” she warned. “It has always been in the United States.”

So she read a poem in which two gay women on a Greyhound bus touch each other intimately, ignoring the gaze of other passengers. “I thought I was the only one in high school coveting my friends,” she said, presenting “Eulogy for a Dyke Bar”, her memory of discovering some of the school’s basketball players with their coach in a gay club that has now disappeared. .

In “Connections” she spoke of the links between disenfranchised people, even the terrorized – “Arguing who has the worst, who is at the bottom of the totem pole. ”

Emmitt Till, murdered by a gang of white men? The victims of the Atlanta child murders, whose killer turned out to be black? “We don’t all die the same way,” she said. “But we all fight to breathe.”

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PHOTO BY ASHLEIGH DESKINS

  • PHOTO BY ASHLEIGH DESKINS

So many of these poems seemed autobiographical. “This concrete here is where my brother’s last breath left his body,” she said in a singing voice, before giving way to quick images of life and murder.

Pain is everywhere. “It erases things,” she said of the cocaine. “Being clean changed everything for me.”

His words tumbled into free verse. Nothing rhymed, everything made sense.

We need to be careful about how we interpret our fears. The devil is in the details: COVID is not the great equalizer, she stressed. This is the big magnifying glass.

Social issues like Black Lives Matter called for more than just recognition. “Are we really going to do this together?” Needly asked. “Can we do it when it’s not fashionable?” “

And the espresso machines groaned in approval. – JS

The full Rochester Fringe schedule is available at rochesterfringe.com. Go to “Find a show”, create a list of events by date, place and genre, then press the “Filter” button. Tickets for each event are available on the website, by calling (585) 957-9837, or on site one hour before the start of the show if they are still available.

Rebecca Rafferty is the editor of CITY and Jeff Spevak is the editor and arts and life reporter of WXXI. Comments on this article can be directed to [email protected]

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