Of all of the good and even some great productions I’ve seen at Atlantic Stage, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” surpasses all in general stagecraft, acting and directing.
The ensemble company move seamlessly between their varied roles and interactions. Steve Earnest, the Actors Equity member who plays Dr. Jekyll, is equaled in talent and presentation by his fellow cast members, Vaughn Cox and Coastal Carolina University students Hannah Garmon, Nathan Smith, Shaleigh Phillips and Michael Onofaro.
The latter four also take on the role of Mr. Hyde at various times, giving the evil side of Jekyll a very effective broader aspect. I was particularly touched by Shaleigh Phillips’ portrayal of Jekyll’s housekeeper and her transformation into Hyde. The use of four actors to portray Hyde complements the show’s action; it does not confuse.
You are alerted to the “something different” of this play as soon as you enter the theater. You immediately feel enveloped by the play. The stage extends out a bit in the front and on the sides and a steel set of steps climbs up to a catwalk on either side of the stage (side seats are reconfigured) to a catwalk that extends across the top of the stage. Much of the action takes place in these areas.
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Dystopian music pounds, hinting at the intensity of the action to come, and a lone red door stands in a frame on wheels in the center of the stage. That door leads us to the interior of Jekyll’s home, Hyde’s “hide-away,” and other “places” in the show as well as acting as a metaphor for the doorways into the soul that are portrayed in the production. Costumes, accents and dialogue tip us to the Victorian England time period of the piece, an era when good was good and bad was bad – or was it?
Adapted from the Robert Louis Stevenson novella, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” this play is a gem. Thom Penn has definitely worked his magic with casting, choreography (especially of the transformation scenes) and overall cohesion of the cast.
Not scary in the sense of a horror movie, this play takes “scare” to a new level, revealing the frightening capacity for evil that lies within the heart of each and every one of us. The playbill warns that very young children may find it disturbing and I agree. This play is intense and its vivid violence, portrayed with all of the tricks of theater instead of the over-the-top gore of modern television and games, is far more frightening because it sets off horror sensors in our minds.
If you think you might have time to only see one show this fall, make it this one! Outstanding.
At this writing, there are still tickets available for all of the shows, even the show on Halloween night. Prices range from $12.50 for the side seats to $27.50 for the general public with discounts for seniors, CCU students and Lifelong Learning Members, Educators and Military. You can call the theater or reserve online.
Two of the remaining Sunday shows include a “talk back” with the actors and director.