David MacGregor, a Detroit-born playwright and screenwriter, has had five plays produced at the Purple Rose Theatre since 2006, including last year’s revival of “Vino Veritas.” Performances of his sixth play there, “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Elusive Ear,” begin March 29th and run through May 26th. The play features familiar Arthur Conan Doyle characters: Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and Irene Adler; but also Vincent Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde, among others. Current spoke with MacGregor about his inspiration and vision for the show.
Did you read Sherlock Holmes when you were a kid? Yes. Back in the day, there were book sales, and the last day of book sales was ‘bag day’…
Whatever you could fit into a bag… For a dollar. You could get 50, 60 books into a grocery bag. So, my brother and I, being poor kids, we’d toss in whatever and when we got home we’d spill all these books out. One time we picked up The Collected Sherlock Holmes and I started that and said, “This is really good.” I really liked the character, I really liked the format, I liked the detective genre. What I liked about it is what I think most people like; the idea that through accurate observation and logical deduction, you can make sense of the universe. There is order and there’s structure. If you can perceive accurately and think deductively… I mean, I know that’s a lie!
There’s more things in heaven and earth, Horatio… Right. There’s chaos, there’s random stuff that happens for no reason. But it’s a really—take your pick—pleasing illusion or delusion. That’s what detective stories are. So, I’d always wanted to write a Sherlock Holmes play.
You’ve long been working on a scholarly book about Sherlock Holmes. How did the play happen?
I had this epiphany, “You know how you’ve always wanted to write a Sherlock Holmes play? Do it. Now. When you’re fed up with [doing] research [for the book], you can just make stuff up!” I was already immersed in the world, and more importantly the language, so I just started typing. And it unfolded like clockwork.
I was a couple of weeks away from finishing it, and I saw Guy Sanville, the Artistic Director of the Purple Rose, and I can tell you our conversation verbatim. “So, are you working on something?” “Yes.” “Can I see it?” “Give me a couple of weeks.” “What’s it about?” “It’s a Sherlock Holmes play.” “Dude, I’ve been looking for a Sherlock Holmes play.”
Do you need to be a Sherlock Holmes fan to like your play? If you’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes story or never seen a Sherlock Holmes play or TV show, it works. It’s an action-adventure-comedy-mystery-romance. If you’re up on your Sherlock Holmes, there are all kinds of smaller things in there.
Inside jokes? Yes. Right now, in art, in plays, there are two roads. One, very topical, very hard hitting, very dramatic, commentary on the culture. The other way is escapism. I wouldn’t say mine is completely escapism. Mine is more about what people have in common, it is more a bringing together than a “here’s all the differences between us” type of story. It is a love story, after all.
$20.50-$46.00, contains adult language and content
March 29 – May 26
Purple Rose Theatre, 137 Park St., Chelsea
734-433-7673 | purplerosetheatre.org