Art News

BETC Founders Take a Bow in Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt 2B

Anastasia Davidson and Rebecca Remaly in Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, 2B.
Anastasia Davidson and Rebecca Remaly in Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, 2B. Michael Ensminger
After seventeen years leading the Butterfly Effect Theater of Colorado (formerly the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company), BETC founders Rebecca Remaly and Stephen Weitz are collaborating on their last production with the company, Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt 2B, which opens on February 2.

Although the pair will still be involved with BETC's final show of the season, the world premiere of Eden Prairie, 1971 in April, Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt 2B will be the last time the husband-and-wife team appear in the cast or on the production team of a BETC play. And Remaly, the managing director who portrays Watson, and Weitz, the producing artistic director, are relishing this final opportunity to work together on a play for the organization they created.

“Although it wasn't public at the time, when we picked the play, Rebecca and I had already decided that we would be stepping away from the company,” Weitz says. “We knew this would be our last one with BETC and that Rebecca would act in it, and I would direct it. So we kind of took that and then extrapolated it outward to say, ‘Hey, this would be a great opportunity for us to work with a lot of the actors and designers who've been a part of our time with the company and the things we've accomplished,’ so this kind of became a family affair.” Nine of BETC's artistic ensemble members are among the play's cast and crew.
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Anastasia Davidson and Rebecca Remaly in Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, 2B.
Michael Ensminger

When they first moved to Boulder in 2004, Remaly and Weitz were disappointed by the lack of contemporary theater being produced in the area. “There was the Shakespeare Festival, there was dinner theater, and not much beyond that,” Remaly recalls. “So we, without very much foresight at all — like, zero — said, ‘Let's start a theater company!’ And here we are, seventeen years later.”

Over the years, BETC has produced seventy plays, including Kate Hamill’s Pride and Prejudice in 2018, which is what put the Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt 2B playwright on their radar. Weitz admires how Hamill’s plays update classic stories for new audiences by putting an interesting, modern twist on characters people might think they know.

“Around the time that Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt 2B was being workshopped, [BETC] was trying to finalize our 2022-2023 season,” Weitz says. “We were interested in finding a good comedy. Some of the work, particularly in the first half of our season, was relatively heavy, so we wanted something that was going to be an entertaining evening for our audience, and this fit the bill as something that's a lot of fun. Hamill’s script is really enjoyable because it appeals to both die-hard Holmes fans and casual fans.”

Sherlock Holmes and Watson are recast as eccentric roommates on contemporary Baker Street in Hamill's farcical feminist retelling of the detective story. Her action-packed play follows the world's top consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes (played by Anastasia Davidson), and her partner, Dr. Joan Watson (Remaly), as they investigate crimes and interrogate sexy baddies.

“It's so fresh, and it's such a lovely adaptation/reboot to ignite excitement about these characters,” Davidson says. “If you come with your family, you get a whole gambit of emotions. It has a sense of mystery to it. It has heartfelt moments. It's action-packed. You’ll be trying to piece together the puzzle yourselves as the play goes along, and if we do our jobs right, you’ll just barely keep up with us the whole time because it's just moving so fast and it's just coming at you.”

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Stephen Weitz
Before greenlighting the project, Remaly and Weitz invited Davidson and Erika Mori over to their house to get a feel for the play. They read the script at their dining room table, with Remaly, Davidson and Mori reading the roles they're now playing in BETC’s production and Weitz reading the male roles, which will be filled by Michael Morgan.

“This is one of those plays that doesn’t live on the page; you really can't start to appreciate it and visualize it until you hear it performed aloud,” Remaly says. “Getting together for that reading was really inspiring and, fast-forward to now, all four of us who sat at our dining room table are involved in the production, which is delightful.”

The creative team’s comfort level with one another allowed everyone to dive into the rehearsal process without the typical awkwardness that comes with working with new people. Hamill's 127-page script features high-energy dialogue and comedic set pieces that require a high level of trust to execute, and the cast members' prior relationships aided in the development of the show during rehearsals.

“I feel comfortable sniffing Rebecca and doing all sorts of goofy things that it just might take a week to get into with someone that you've never worked with before,” Davidson says. “But with a good friend, it's like, ‘I'm going to full-on smell you from day one,’ so that's been super fun. Our Holmes and Watson are very similar to Lucy and Ethel, which I love, and there may or may not be a scene where we're stuck in a bathtub together. You'll have to come see for yourself!"

And they hope people do come: Weitz says that the return to live theater after COVID shutdowns has been a little slower than expected. “I kind of felt from the start of the pandemic that it wasn’t going to be this instantaneous rebound, it was going to be an incremental return,” he explains. But while audience size is about half of what it used to be, Weitz has talked with other arts leaders, and they agree that people are starting to come back.

“Theaters are just, frankly, having to compete with a lot more factors now,” Remaly says. “People are having to weigh the costs of going out — not just the financial costs, but also the mental and physical costs of getting off their couch and in public with other people. So we intentionally programmed a show in these mid-winter months that’s lighthearted and warm so that people would feel excited to come out. It's going to be so much fun, and it is so worth it.”

“I hope folks go home having laughed a lot and having really enjoyed an evening out with their friend or their loved one that they went to the theater with,” Weitz concludes. “I hope that they share the ridiculous moments that they liked best on their way home and add this version of the characters to their lexicon of the Holmes canon.”

Ms. Holmes and Ms. Watson, Apt 2B opens Thursday, February 2, and runs through Saturday, February 25; shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut Street in Boulder. Get tickets and more information here.
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