In company with my friend, drama and music critic John Farrell, I attended a performance I’d been looking forward to with some eagerness. Asking my son DeForeest and his lady, the lovely Blair Walker, to accompany us, I was delighted to learn that not only was my son excited to go but so was Blair. “I love the Father Brown stories!” she exclaimed brightly. “Chesterton has never been matched.” Not many 20-somethings would even know G. K. Chesterton — or Patrick Rieger, whose brand new play, “The Innocence of Father Brown,” is wrapping a world premiere run at the Fremont Center Theatre in South Pasadena. Adapting several of the original collection of detective stories written by one of history’s most splendid writers, Rieger has done Chesterton the courtesy of letting his prose speak for itself. At the same time, Rieger has crafted a splendid outing with Chesterton’s master detective.For readers unfamiliar with the character, Father Brown is one of the few brilliant stars in the galaxy of detective fiction able to shine as intensely as the great Sherlock Holmes (the original Holmes, that is, not that silly pretender on CBS who needs to shave, pull up his trousers, and learn to speak without mumbling). Father Brown was actually Chesterton’s answer to the host of sleuths, some more erudite than others, introduced in the late 1800s and early 1900s to out-quirk the eccentricities of Holmes. Chesterton, the great lover of paradox, gave Father Brown totally unmemorable looks. He’s short and nondescript, a pudding-faced man easily overlooked in a crowd. Yet this oft-underestimated member of the oft-detested Catholic priesthood is a match for any criminal crossing his path. Modeled on his friend, Father John Connor, Chesterton was sure that if any man can know the depths of human depravity, it’s a priest who’s heard the confessions of rogues and reprobates. As a detective, Chesterton imagined, the priest would be as keen to save a soul as to solve a mystery.As portrayed by Blake Walker, Father Brown is very much as Chesterton imagined him, blessed not only with a keen mind but also with a passion for bringing Christ’s salvation to lost souls. Walker does this without hollow pretense. His Father Brown stands up to criminals with an informed, intelligent faith. Telling a pretended cleric that he knew right off he was no priest, he explains, “You attacked reason. That’s bad theology.” The only fault with Walker’s performance is that he lacks a furled, plaid umbrella. That’s all he needs to complete his portrait of the beloved priest-detective. Those familiar with Father Brown’s adventures will be pleased to become reacquainted with Flambeau the master jewel thief, played with sincerity by Brandon Parish, who could stand more Gallic panache and hauteur. Chief Inspector Valentin is energetically brought to life by Adam Daniel Elliott. Kaylon, the priest of Apollo, is portrayed with amusing flamboyance by Terrance Robinson. They and the rest of the capable cast bring to life “The Blue Cross,” “The Secret Garden,” “The Flying Stars,” “The Hammer of God” and “The Eye of Apollo,” all woven together to form a single story. This being a tiny, 54-seat Equity waiver theater, some members of the cast play multiple roles. Excellent lighting is provided by Jeremy Williams. Three flats — one with an impressionist mural of London with Big Ben its most recognizable feature — are put to good use to suggest shops, a study and a tower, the producers confident in the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief. One flaw: directors Alison Darby Gorgian and Betsy Roth have not prompted some of the actors to project their voices. More than once a few of the characters seemed merely to talk to each other, seeming to forget the audience to which their voices must carry. This being the only quibble, I urge readers to obtain tickets to the remaining performances (the show ends April 28), especially parishioners of Holy Family, located only two streets south of the playhouse. It is an agreeably satisfying evening or matinee, sprung from the pen of one of the most splendid writers of the English language, G. K. Chesterton.“The Innocence of Father Brown” runs through April 28 at Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena. Show times: Thursdays, 7:30 p.m., Fridays & Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ticket information: (866) 811-4111 or M. Wright is a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Santa Clarita and an invested member of the Baker Street Irregulars. He replies to comments and questions at [email protected].{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0419/frbrown/{/gallery}