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Karl Hugh, Utah Shakespeare Festival
Brian Vaughn, left, as Doctor Watson and J. Todd Adams as Sherlock Holmes in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2014 production of "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure."

“SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE FINAL ADVENTURE,” through Oct. 18, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Randall L. Jones Theatre, 351 W. Center, Cedar City (435-586-7878 or bard.org)

The game is on at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” will continue its run through Oct. 18 in Southern Utah University’s Randall L. Jones Theatre.

The lights go up on a glum Dr. Watson, played with impactful finesse by USF artistic director Brian Vaughn, as he listens to a man tell another of the death of Sherlock Holmes as reported in the newspaper. Watson then turns to address the audience and begins to recount the last adventure he undertook with Holmes — his memories of each vivid scene springing to life onstage.

J. Todd Adams creates a Holmes who manages to be entirely recognizable yet completely his own. He moves from pensive to brooding and eccentric moods without being over the top in any. Holmes, with Watson having married and circumstances having changed accordingly, misses his past adventures and dreams of a case capable of catching his interest.

“My entire life,” he confides, “has been a frantic attempt to escape from the dreary commonplace of existence.”

That escape comes by way of a case brought forward by the king of Bohemia, a flashy and melodramatic man played entertainingly by Aaron Galligan-Stierle, who pleads for help in retrieving a photograph of himself with famous singer Irene Adler — the woman in whose possession the photograph resides — in what could be construed as romantic circumstances.

Adler holds special interest to Holmes, who accepts the case and embarks on an adventure of disguises, deduction, deception and misdirection that stacks up impressively against other depictions of Holmes’ various cases.

Roderick Peeples ably brings to life a somber and imposing Professor Moriarty as Holmes’ menacing primary foe. Melinda Pfundstein as Irene sparkles with wit and vivacity in every scene in which she takes the stage, making obvious the reason for Holmes’ fascination with the only woman to ever best him. The two have terrific chemistry.

The staging’s clever set, sumptuous costumes and artful lighting blend together for a seamless presentation that transports the audience to 1893 London and enhances the action. The means and sound used in creating the Reichenbach Falls are particularly outstanding, though Barry Funderburg’s sound design is also impressive in the music as well as in enhancing the delivery of several lines.

Steven Dietz’s adaptation of “The Final Adventure” is based on an 1899 original play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and includes elements from the plots of Doyle’s short stories “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Final Problem.”

As with many stories about the beloved detective, the plot feels a bit episodic and leaves the audience wanting more. But wanting more is an indication of a story well told, and that, in addition to the actors’ engaging performances and the elegance of the staging, makes this thrilling and suspenseful production a splendid installment worth making the trip to see.

Content advisory: Some drug use (including smoking and an injection of a cocaine solution)

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