Lyndhurst is celebrating the holidays by resuming the indoor theatrical events that halted as the pandemic unfolded in 2020.
The mansion’s resident theater company, M&M Performing Arts, is collaborating with the Red Monkey Theater Group to present 18 performances of “A Scandal in Bohemia,” a dramatization of a Sherlock Holmes story, from Nov. 12 to Dec. 5. As a social-distancing precaution, the production will be entirely in the Blue Parlor rather than in the acting companies’ traditional format, where performers and audience members moved throughout the mansion.
“It’s Red Monkey and M&M’s first co-production indoors since December of 2019 and the first time I’ve acted in an indoor play since December 2019,” said Red Monkey founder Tal Aviezer of Hastings, who plays Holmes. “It’s been a long time for theater.”
In June, the two companies performed “A Scandal in Bohemia” under a tent at the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum in the Bronx.
“Theater has changed a lot in the past couple of years,” Aviezer said. “There was sort of this ‘show must go on’ attitude. Actors have gone on with illnesses and injuries; the theater has this sort of boot camp mentality where you just do it anyway. That has really changed, because it’s about protecting your fellow members of your company, your audience, and yourself.”
Aviezer said coming together at a theater has been one of those fundamental human rituals that was forbidden during the pandemic. “We’ve been playing Sherlock Holmes for seven years, and I’m even more grateful to be able to do another one,” he said.
Aviezer has portrayed the famous sleuth in nine different plays at Lyndhurst or at Bartow-Pell. He wrote the stage adaptations for eight of them. For “Bohemia,” Amy Frey, who lives in New Jersey, wrote the script. She also plays Holmes’ antagonist, Irene Adler, a former opera singer and ex-lover of the King of Bohemia.
“There’s something really interesting about her,” Frey said of her character. “She’s one woman who everyone underestimated, including Sherlock Holmes. I think she really caught the imagination of Sherlock Holmes fans because she is the only person who ever wins against Holmes, and he is delighted by it.”
Writing the adaptation was a challenge because Holmes and Adler never interact in the story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Frey was also constrained by the limits of the performance space. “We only have four actors,” she said. “I only interact with Holmes, who’s played by Tal. We try to keep it a small group to keep everyone as safe as possible.”
In the play, Frey sings an aria from “Le Nozze di Figaro.”
“When I was in college I did some vocal work,” Frey said. “But my younger sister, Melissa, is an actual opera singer. So she’s been giving me vocal lessons for the last six months.”
Yorktown Heights resident Melinda O’Brien of M&M directs the production. Her husband, Michael Muldoon (the other M of “M&M”), plays Dr. John Watson, who accompanies Holmes into a world of blackmail and intrigue when the hereditary King of Bohemia (played by Steve Plaushin of Hastings) hires them to steal a photo from Irene Adler.
M&M’s next production at Lyndhurst will be “Mr. Dickens Tells a Christmas Carol,” in which Muldoon will play the title character. “It’s sort of a re-enactment of Charles Dickens’s 1867 visit to the United States,” O’Brien explained. “He was a rock star of his time. He would travel around at lecture halls and do his readings… but Charles Dickens was an actor first. He’d start reading the book, then close it and just act out the characters.” As a newspaper of that era wrote about one of his performances, “He gave to every character a different voice, a different style, a different face.”
“Mr. Dickens” will also take place in the parlor of Lyndhurst, from Dec. 16-23.
Lyndhurst, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is located at 635 S. Broadway, Tarrytown. Tickets to “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “Mr. Dickens Tells a Christmas Carol” must be purchased in advance at Lyndhurst.org. All tickets are $45. The plays run about one hour without an intermission, but plan on 90 minutes including check-in at the Welcome Center. All ticket holders must show proof of vaccination and wear masks. No one under age 12 will be admitted. Tickets can also be purchased by phone at 1-888-718-4253 opt. 1. Additional fees apply on phone orders.