Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
An elegant, somehow unfusty presentation of a sincere, old-style dramatic investigation into moral and philosophical territory that ought to be uncomfortably familiar in an age that is sold on better living through chemistry. (A great many of us, it seems, attempt to medicate the mind by drugging the brain...) Early on, decent Doctor Jekyll wonders if a murderer’s cry of “What have I done?” might not be rhetorical, but sincere: what if it really was as if someone else was wielding the blade? And what if that someone else could be isolated, contained, restrained via chemical intervention?
Jekyll may be decent, but he’s also distressed — by his indecent colleague Sir Danvers Carew, for starters — and envies those tribal mystics who can obtain serenity by puffing on a pipe. So he’s mocked up a medicine, and severed himself from his beastly other half, the monstrous Dr. Hyde. Hyde is not simply man’s animal nature before morality slaps on the shackles; he’s properly monstrous — which means he’s still human, and therefore, still desperate for life…and love. But medicines have side effects, don’t you know, and this one may include prolonged blackouts, during which terrible things start to take place.
Shana Wride’s presentation of Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novella smartly dresses everyone in the same costume, so that any of them can serve as Jekyll’s warped reflection as the story demands. In one particularly chilling moment, several of them gather to whisper Hyde’s dark desires just out of the hearing of the one character who is always herself: the lovely Elizabeth, the Beauty to Hyde’s Beast. Why does she fall for him? Who can say? Love isn’t simply chemistry or animal desire; it’s a force that has little to do with Jekyll’s mindbending tincture. He would have done well to attend to it's immaterial workings. The adaptation of Stevenson’s work isn’t perfect — there is at least one inexplicable dramatic decision near the climax of the action — but it is consistently clever, and while the expert cast is utterly serious about its work, the show remains an entertainment and not a lesson.
Ongoing until Sunday, November 12, 2023