Sherlock Holmes is somewhat of a know-it-all. Holmes has been described as a bit of an intellectual. And, in the Andria Theatre's upcoming production of "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery," Holmes is a woman who is skilled at her job.

Caroline Petefish, who was cast in the role, said her character has made her fair share of mistakes but is able to admit when she does, and that Holmes has had trouble with relationships but has found a good friend in Watson, who is being played by Pete Woit.

The play, based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1901 classic, "The Hound of the Baskervilles," will open at the Andria Theatre on Friday, Jan. 11. Comedic genius and playwright Ken Ludwig has transformed Doyle's novel into a hilarious comedy, said director Claudia Bursch, with a small cast playing large roles.

In fact, three of the actors - Quincy Roers, Jake Stone and Cathy Snyder - will play nearly 40 different characters. Bursch said the men will play women and the woman will play men and everything in between. They will also have the challenge of eight different accents.

"Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery," has been the most challenging play for Bursch to direct because it has 30 scenes and takes place in and around London - from the countryside to the train station and at the opera and in a doctor's office.

"Trying to figure out how to build a set and how to portray all the scenes was interesting," she said

Bursch enjoys how Ludwig kept the play as a murder mystery but at the same time turned it into a comedy. Basically, Holmes and Watson are themselves, but the other 30-plus characters are what Bursch described as cartoons who are woven throughout the play.

Pretending to be someone else

Petefish is no stranger to the stage, having been in roughly 25 productions at the Andria Theatre. The retired teacher, who taught for 22 of her 38 years in Alexandria, said the role of Sherlock Holmes is one of the largest she has taken on.

"It has been interesting to play Sherlock as a woman," said Petefish. "I needed to first really understand him in order to play him as a woman."

Although playing characters with accents comes fairly easy for her, she has found it a challenge to keep the British accent needed for Sherlock Holmes all the way through the play.

For Petefish, who taught theater among many other subjects, being on stage is a great way to escape from reality. She said it's fun pretending to be someone else and it's nice to get away once in awhile.

A multitude of characters

From a baby to a creepy old lady, Cathy Snyder plays at least 16 different characters.

"I have never done a play with so many characters," said Snyder, who added that each of the actors playing the multitude of characters has a person assigned to them to help with costume changes.

Snyder, who moved to Alexandria from the St. Cloud area, has been on the Andria Theatre stage five times before and said that there is an incredible amount of talent in this area. She loves acting, especially when it comes to figuring out her characters and watching an audience erupt with laughter during comedies such as "Baskerville."

"You can't help but laugh and that's what makes it worthwhile," she said.

Playing as many characters as she does in this upcoming production has been challenging. But Snyder said it has also been fun to try and remember which character she is at any given moment, along with figuring out where she needs to be on stage. She said that often there is a such a brief moment between character changes that it is hard to remember what side of the stage to exit and enter from.

Despite its challenges, Snyder said the play has been a blast and she is having loads of fun with her characters.

Cast

Sherlock Holmes - Caroline Petefish

Watson - Pete Woit

Actor one - Quincy Roers

Actor two - Jake Stone

Actor three - Cathy Snyder

Crew

Director - Claudia Bursch

Assistant director/stage manager - Donna Magnuson

Set design - Quincy Roers

Hair and makeup - Kathryn Niemeyer

Costumes - Alyssa Petefish

Props - Hilary Ninman

Light design/tech - Lucas Granholm

Sound - Greg Raether

If you go

WHAT: "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery"

WHEN: Friday-Saturday, Jan. 11-12 and 18-19, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 13 and 20, at 2 p.m.

WHERE: Andria Theatre, 618 Broadway St., Alexandria

TICKETS: Go to www.andriatheatre.org or call the box office at 320-762-8300.