The Victorian Ladies Detective Collective

“The Victorian Ladies’ Detective Collective”
Written by Patricia Milton
Directed by Gary Graves
Central Works: Berkeley City Club
May 4 -June 2, 2109

Upstaging Sherlock

The Victorian Ladies’ Detective Collective”, a new play by Patricia Milton takes us back to the formidable days of “Jack the Ripper,” when a killer stalked London murdering young actresses.

Sisters Loveday and Valeria run the Hunter Lodging House for Single Ladies. When six of their householders are dead and there is no help from Scotland Yard (or any other male authority), the sisters and their new boarder, Katie, turn their skills to solving the case.

Alan Coyne, actor, provides the several male voices as a committee chair, a magistrate and even as a butcher. His lines offer only humiliation for the possibility that women might have the skills necessary for the solution. The sisters dispute the issue and with Chelsea Bearce (as Katie), they finally take on the case. There is much dispute between sister Loveday (Stacy Ross) and Valeria (Jan Zwaifler), but after Valeria’s story of her husband’s murder, the action moves on. Bearce’s skills in handling a fan as a weapon is convincing and delightful!

Although there is much delight and much humor in the confrontations between and among the ladies and the many-voiced gentleman, the dialogue, especially in the second act becomes repetitious and redundant. There are wonderful lines concerning both the weaknesses and strengths of the individuals, the taking of laudanum (a common female addiction) and the proper means of ‘hunting’ the killer, but the points are well made in several scenes.

The costumes by Tammy Berlin are admirable for their Victorian elegance; the ‘fan fight choreography’ by Marcella Rodgers is hilarious and effective. Gary Graves has again directed with panache. Now with some editing and some pacing, “The Victorian Ladies Detective Collective” should score as another Central Works hit!

Note: Though we the audience admired “Diana the Huntress” by Orazio Gentileschi hanging above the fireplace, we are concerned about how she can accomplish the pose!

Joanna G. Harris