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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

a Thriller
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Robert Louis Stevenson, adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 3845

SHOWING : October 07, 2010 - October 31, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Directed by Susan Reid.

In this chilling new version of the classic tale, Dr. Henry Jekyll tips the scales with his dangerous experiments, bringing forth his other self, the horrifying monster Edward Hyde. It seems that only a woman can stop the vicious cycle. This fiendishly clever adaptation reveals the many faces of Edward Hyde as each talented actor has a hand at portraying the monster himself.


CAST & CREW LIST
Associate Producer Ann-Carol Pence
Producing Artistic Director Anthony Rodriguez
Director Susan Reid
Wigs/ Make-up George Deavours
Lighting Designer Rob Dillard
Production Manager Britt Hultgren
Sound Designer Thom Jenkins
Costume Designer Linda Patterson
Scenic Designer John Thigpen
Dr. Henry Jekyll Brik Berkes
Actor 5 Kelly Criss
Actor 1 James Donadio
Elizabeth Jelkes Suehyla El-Attar
Actor 4 Shannon Eubanks
Actor 3 Matt Felten
Actor 2 Scott Warren
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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The Dark Strangers
by Dedalus
Friday, November 5, 2010
4.0
Long before Billy Joel sang of the dark stranger within each of us, Robert Louis Stevenson penned his oft-adapted, oft-seen story of one man’s dark side made flesh. I speak, of course, of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Aurora has found an intriguing adaptation of the story by Jeffrey Hatcher, and has staged it with loads of atmosphere and style.

London lawyer Mr. Utterson has become amazed at the influence a certain Edward Hyde has exerted over his old friend (and client) Dr. Henry Jekyll, to the point of becoming the hapless doctor’s sole heir and beneficiary. After Mr. Hyde becomes implicated in a hideous murder, things become more dire, and Mr. Utterson races to save his friend. Of course, things are not as they seem, as most of you probably already know.

This production has taken some fan-based critical heat for failing to “humanize” Dr. Jekyll and for making Mr. Hyde a more compelling figure. While I may question the added character of Elizabeth Ann Jelks, I had no problem with this piece’s portrait of Jekyll. After all, the original story was from Mr. Utterson’s point of view, and Jekyll had no “mitigating” fiancée (as the recent musical would have us believe), and, indeed, comes across as a tad cold and eccentric. On the other hand, this adaptation wants to show that good and evil is not such a dichotomy as other adaptations have conditioned us to expect, that they more part of a spectrum with different aspects, different levels. Good is not always ALL good, and evil is not always ALL bad. I find this far more interesting than a basic black-and-white characterization.

Choosing to write this adaptation in the Reader’s Theatre style with many narrators and multiple characterizations was also a strength, as far as I’m concerned (I suppose “Nicholas Nickleby” started this trend). This allows several actors to play the many faces of Hyde, often at once and in unison. Unlike other viewers, I found this device effective, and it made for a compelling way to highlight the strength Hyde is building over Jekyll, and underscored the “he never looks the same to two witnesses” aspect of the story. This device also allows a more verbatim adaptation of the original story, putting Stevenson’s words on the stage, adding a “ghost story around the campfire” aura to the production.

This, however, leaves the portrayal of Dr. Jekyll in the very capable hands of Brik Berkes. Yes, our first view of him is his fiercely denouncing a fellow physician (Dr. Carew), but my sense was that this showed him as an idealist who would not suffer fools gladly (or otherwise). This not only showed him at the start as a champion of science and integrity, but also implicated him in the eventual murder. Would Hyde have chosen Carew as a victim if Jekyll were not so disposed to dislike him?

Other aspects added by Mr. Hatcher were a mixed bag. I think the character of Ms. Jelks was poorly conceived and written (I was never quite sure of her place in the story), and the Dr. Lanyon episode is lot muddier than in the story. On the other hand, changing Carew into a “quack” doctor in addition to his status as an MP went a long way towards building Jekyll’s character as well as the character of Victorian medicine. It was fun to actually root for the demise of one of Mr. Hyde’s victims. And, as I said before, the device of the multiple Hyde’s was clever, especially since the actors also played significant figures in Dr. Jekyll’s life – one could make a case that friendship can be as multi-faced as “the strangers” within us.

On a not-quite-there note, the production is marketed (a bit) as being in the style of alternate history “steam punk.” This doesn’t quite pass muster, as part of the steam punk tradition is modern devices built with Victorian tropes. Since the story is so ensconced in the 19th-century, we see only the Victoriana. Apart from some bizarre goggles worn by Dr. Carew in the autopsy scene, and the terrific set, there is really very little of a steam punk nature on view.

On the other hand, there is that set. Designer John Thigpen’s work is a marvelously evocative piece, showing opposed faces of a vaguely 19th-century design (one showing a phrenology diagram, the other a clockwork brain) with a floating door and a vaguely arcane floor painting. Generally lit darkly with lots of smoke/fog, an eerie sense of impending dread hangs over the entire production. The violent murder and final confrontation are staged by director Susan Reid with a maximum of cruelty and suspense, and I have to confess to enjoying the play, apparently far more than many others in the audience.

In addition to Mr. Berkes, the cast was, for the most part, outstanding. James Donadio as Utterson (and Hyde), Scott Warren as Carew (and Hyde), Matt Felten as Lanyon (and Hyde), and Shannon Eubanks as Jekyll’s manservant Poole (and Hyde) made distinct characterizations and carried the bulk of the narration. Suehyla El-Attar was less effective in the underwritten role of Elizabeth Jelks, and Kelly Criss was underused in two plot-centric roles, but they were not destructive to the overall effect of the play.

So, I went into this with my expectations based more on Stevenson’s original story rather last decade’s musical (and other fanciful adaptations), so I wasn’t as disappointed as many other reviewers seem to have been. Perhaps that’s the key to this adaptation – forget everything you’ve seen before and re-read the Stevenson story before seeing it. For one thing, it’s good to see the character of Utterson regain his rightful place in the center of the story. For another, it helps make us appreciate the skill of a masterful storyteller at the peak of his form.

Now, all I have to do is figure out how many dark strangers I have inside of me!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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Not crazy about adaptation
by Hel
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
3.0
I am a big fan of steampunk literature and was excited when I saw the promo for this show as it seems to promote that this is a steampunk adaptation. It isn't. The set and costume design has some of the steampunk elements, but that is only a piece of the show.
The show while well acted by a few parts, most notably, Dr. Jekyl and the primary Mr. Hyde, there are several incarnations of Hyde, a number of the actors seemed to fall short. I think Ms. El-Attar is a talented actress but this play did not showcase it, the story has her portrayed as somewhat whiny.
And there is where the disappointment lies. This is just not a good adaptation of the story. Dr. Jekyl, while well acted is not a likeable character and we want to feel for him as he struggles with his baser instincts personified in Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde on the other hand is known to be a murderer but the adaptation tries to soften him by giving him the love interest of Elizabeth. This completely misses the point and muddies the story.
The set is beautiful and well constructed. The painted floor pattern is something I want in scale in my home. The steampunk heads that serve for entrances and exits adjust well to each locale.
This had potential but fell short largely due to the terrible adaptation, definitely not my favorite Aurora production. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Not Engaging
by playgoer
Monday, October 11, 2010
3.5
"I don't like it at all. Do you?" Those were the first words I overheard as the lights came up after the first act of Aurora Theatre's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." The reaction from another person after the show ended was two thumbs down and a "pffft." Clearly, this production is not to everyone's taste.

As always, Aurora has done everything at a professional level. The set, by John Thigpen, consists of two large heads facing one another, one with phrenology markings and one a metal outline with gears in the brainpan. The phrenology head has a spiral staircase and doors at two levels. The set pieces include a revolving doorframe, along with a couple of small tables and a few matching chairs that are rearranged to suggest different settings. Lighting keeps things in focus, but tends toward the dark and gloomy. Ever-replenished stage smoke from stage left adds to the atmosphere of an oppressive 19th-century London. Music, provided by sound designer Thom Jenkins, and metal-trimmed costumes, by Linda Patterson, add a little techno feel.

The twist in this adaptation, by Jeffrey Hatcher, is that the role of evil Mr. Hyde is played by four different actors, often all at once. This sometimes requires them to transform instantly from another character to Hyde. The first we see do this is James Donadio, who makes the transition beautifully from a mild-mannered lawyer to the twisted, sneering Hyde. Scott Warren, Matt Felton, and Shannon Eubanks also make effective transitions, although Ms. Eubanks' volume is a little low for the size of the theatre. All do well in their various roles. Kelly Criss, as actor #5, has little to do, so makes less of an impression.

Two actors are given a single role each to play. Suehyla El-Attar plays Elizabeth, a hotel chambermaid who falls in love with Hyde. Brik Berkes plays Dr. Henry Jekyll, the tortured soul who brings Mr. Hyde into the world. They both do fine work, but their roles lie at the heart of the problems with this adaptation. Dr. Jekyll is supposedly a well-loved individual. In this adaptation, though, we see him railing against a colleague from the start and acting wrought and unpleasant throughout. He has no fiancee or any other softening agent. Elizabeth, in contrast, provides a softening agent for Mr. Hyde. How bad can he be, in spite of grisly murders, if he finds the love of an honest, fair-minded woman?

It helps to know the story before seeing this adaptation. The fact that Dr. Jekyll is turning into Mr. Hyde after drinking a potion is pretty clumsily done. Having other actors perform transformations does not add the clarity of the story. It's a somewhat pretentious way of telling the story, much more cerebral than it needs to be, and not particularly scary. Still, it's professionally done and isn't overly long. It adequately fills the Hallowe'en spot in Aurora's season schedule. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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