Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Adapted by Jeffery Hatcher
Directed by Cynthia White
Starring Tim Williams
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre
Orlando, FL

Author Jeff Hatcher breathes new life into this old tale; “Dr. Jekyll” risks becoming the “Christmas Carol” of Halloween. Yes, our not so good doctor Jekyll (Williams) continues to experiment; this week’s potions looks like Absinthe cut with Zerex, and offers a similar effect. Mr. Hyde appears on cue; here he’s shattered into multiple personalities and produces multiple effects on Jekyll, and more interesting he gets the girl Elizabeth Jelks (Gemma Victoria Walden). She’s completely loyal no matter the abuse; and while a respectable job anchors her, all remains uncertain in her world. A turn on the streets isn’t out of the question. Surrounding the doctor we find his lawyer Utterson (Dan Bright), his dissection-obsessed arch rival Carew (Simon Needham) , his close collegue Dr. Lanyon (Steven Lane) and his faithful servant Poole (Anne Hering). All are supportive as needed excepting Carew; his role suggests ancient sacrifice is better than modern theories. Yet all can turn on him instantly and repeatedly and it’s not just the drugs affecting him, it’s whose around when he takes those drugs. If you’re a Jekyll purist you might blanche; but if you’re as horror saturated as I you will rejoice at this invigorating script.

As so many modern plays that Orlando Shakes puts up, this is a non-stop carousel of scene and lighting changes with actors popping between roles instantly and brilliantly. Mr. Bright gets the mousey, sneaky jobs; Mr. Needham plays the larger than life Opera Buffa ones and Mr. Lane is surprisingly harsh. He normally does the “nice guy” characters and it’s shocking when he shows his dark side. Ms. Hering does her best work as the loyal servant but when she dons the scarlet-slathered waist coat of evil, there’s no question she, too, has a heart of darkness. Only Williams and Waldon slide straight into hell with no detours; he represents pride and she prejudice. His pride is the junkie’s dying thought “I can control this” while she hopes “a man loves her and would never really hurt me.” Yes he can, and no he can’t, and not necessarily in that order.

Set, costumes and lights (Bert Scott, Yao Chen and Keven Griffin) are every bit as crucial here as the actors. The set is shallow and yet full of planes; locked doors and hidden spaces appear and disappear as needed and complex light patterns are projected to confuse and disorient. While most costumes are the sort of high Victorian caricatures of great coats and long, unflattering dresses, the Bloody Waistcoats that indicate hallucination are a high point of this show. I received a detailed post show discussion from a purist friend, pointing out all the deviations from the script, and to his horror I applaud them. Hatcher and the Shakes team took liberties and shook this classic out of its straight jacket of too much fog and too little humanity and made it something thrilling.

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit http://www.orlandoshakes.org

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