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Local resident takes on multiple roles in Holmes play

Baskerville, A Sherlock Holmes Mystery is the name of the play Hodge, a South Philly resident, is acting in, currently amidst a month-long run at the Walnut Street Theater.

Dan Hodge, Bill Van Horn, and Jered McLenigan in Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at the Walnut Street Theatre. Photo by Mark Garvin.

“I play about 15 different people,” Dan Hodge said. “I like to tell folks that I definitely play the murderer, but that’s not giving anything away because I play, like, all of the major suspects.”

Baskerville, A Sherlock Holmes Mystery is the name of the play Hodge, a South Philly resident, is acting in, currently amid a month-long run at the Walnut Street Theater.

“It’s an adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes novella The Hound of the Baskervilles,” said Hodge. “The adaptation was done by a playwright named Ken Ludwig, and he’s basically boiled it down to a version that can be performed with five actors.”

The other actors involved are Ian Merrill Peakes, who plays Sherlock Holmes; Bill Van Horn, who plays Dr. Watson (Van Horn is also the play’s director); as well as Jered McLenigan and Sarah Gliko both of whom, like Hodge, play a variety of characters throughout the performance.

“Ken Ludwig’s acclaimed stage adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1902 classic mystery, The Hound of the Baskervilles, is full of intrigue and… huge laughs,” read a press release for the play. “The male heirs of the Baskerville line are being murdered one by one, and the renowned sleuth Sherlock Holmes, along with his trusted sidekick Dr. Watson, must work feverishly to crack the curse before it dooms the newest heir. Five talented actors, playing forty quirky characters, follow leads, unravel clues, hit dead-ends, and zigzag with the story until the shockingly funny conclusion.”

Playing 15 characters can be a challenge for Hodge, but that’s fine with him. It’s a challenge he’s up for.

“For me it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “Quick change comedies is kind of the loose term for them.”

Hodge said he finds ways to differentiate each of the characters he plays.

“With the characters that have larger impact on the story, that have more fruit to yield, I kind of make those characters, let’s say, closer to real people, and the more kind of auxiliary the characters become the more you have kind of permission to get a bit more outlandish with them,” he said. “A lot of the truly down the ladder secondary characters are written in a very broadly comic style. So you’ve got a bit of permission to run and play. But with the ones that are more movers and shakers within the plot, I try to find ways to make them as real as possible but still differentiate them and in terms of physicality, in terms of voice in terms of approach.”

Hodge grew up in Midland, Texas, and eventually moved to San Diego before settling in South Philly. He’s been here for the past 10 years. He called South Philly the “hippest place that I’ve ever lived,” which is impressive considering he lived in Southern California.

“Once you get South of Washington it just becomes like a hornet’s nest of actors,” he said. “There are theater artists all over down here. So there’s always somebody around to run into on the street and have a lovely time [with]. I like it. It’s cozy, it’s homey. I know most of my neighbors. I like the houses. I like the way of life. I’m a big walker, Philly’s a very walkable city, and South Philly in particular. I head up through the Italian Market to go to the theater every day.

Hodge describes Baskerville as “a bit of a thrill ride” and called it “wildly entertaining.” He’s especially proud of the actors he gets to work with.

“[The audience] can certainly expect to see five pretty stunning actors just operating at the top of their game,” he said. “I was once told by a friend of mine who’s also an actor in town that if you look around the room and you can’t find the weak link, you are the weak link. So I’ve been living in constant fear since this processed started.”

The show, which opened on Jan. 4, will run until Feb. 4 at a cost of $35-$45 per ticket.

Performances will be Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m. (excluding February 4), while matinees will run Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. One additional Thursday matinee will be held on February 1st at 2:30 p.m. For more information visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org or call 800–982–2787.

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