Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – The Bad in Me
Welp, there isn’t really any way to talk about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde without acknowledging that it’s mainly about, well, you know. Penis feelings. Only a really fucking repressed society that forced people to wear that many clothes would come up with the notion that you have to literally transform (completely with gigglingly accurate orgasm noises) into the Id part of your personality in order to get laid. And that, of course, the price you pay for finally seeing some action is to become an out-of-control serial killer. Jesus, what drama queens, right? Except that shit actually happened in a charming little case of forensic science called Jack the Goddamned Ripper. Grody to the max. This man-to-man action is the latest offering from The Vagabond Players in an adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher (his adaptation of Henry James’ Turn of the Screw happens to be one of my very favorite plays and is hardly ever done – I’m still waiting for someone in Baltimore to catch on to how good it is and give me a present). Lucky for them, I’m a pretty big fan of farty Masterpiece Theatre style dramas (Tagline: Television for White People) because this thing was pretty much straight as an arrow. Story time: Old Dr. Jekyll (Gregory Guyton) is a mess. He’s got some high-falutin’ ideas about morality and can’t quite manage to dip his wick because of them. Jekyll hangs around with similar buttoned up chaps brooding and talking and not getting any. His mortal enemy is a fellow doctor named Carew (Thom Peters) who is as lewd as Jekyll is prude. Something always has to give, though, and the good Doctor eventually starts shooting up with a magic potion that releases his inner demons in the form of transforming him into a bad side called Mr. Hyde (Michael Styer, Tom Moore, Thom Peters, Michael Panzarotto-more on this in a second). It’s not long before Hyde gets out of hand, going from a vehicle from which Jekyll can maybe woo the beautiful Elizabeth (Tiffany Spaulding) to a monster that’s ripping apart area prostitutes. Nothing ever turns out like it should, right? As more people die, Jekyll comes to the end of the line and offs himself, leaving just the memory of this strange case alive. The best part of the show and the main thing that keeps it from turning into a snorey sausagefest is the conceit that Hyde is played by all of the men except for Guyton. This is pretty neat, making Hyde seem less a true transformation and more an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style alien or a contagious disease. It put me in mind that the real Hyde might not have died with Jekyll but may be still be lurking, just a second away from bubbling to the surface in some other poor sap. The production is heavily track cast with all of the actors (again, except Guyton) playing multiple parts. This is dizzying at first but eventually you cotton on and Ford has a good handle on keeping it all together. Performances were solid across the board. All of the actors were elegant and studied and, I must say, a true credit to Vagabond. The thing is, maybe they were a little too studied, a little too controlled? The production was curiously…bloodless. The murders are pantomimed, we hear about mutilated corpses but they’re invisible, there’s hardly even any screaming. Just maybe a bit too polite for this gross and creepy story. The exception to this came in a couple of scenes between Spaulding’s Elizibeth and Guyton’s Jekyll. They were well matched and I liked the spirit in Spaulding’s step and the agony in Guyton as he struggles not to touch her because he will kill her if he does. Got some heat going, there, at least. Set also by John Ford was again, fine, if not knocking anyone’s socks off. There is a cool receding effect that was fun and a modular red door that moved from place to place setting up the approximately one million scene changes mercifully quickly and efficiently. Costumes by Mary Bova were perfectly Victorian (check out the velvet collar on Enfield that would make David Bowie jelly). Lighting by Moe Conn was kind of obvious with red lights that clued us in to Hyde’s a’comin. Sound by Devin Mckay was pretty cheezy with eye-rolling vamps that took me out of the moment a few times.
Bottom Line: Vagabond’s Jekyll and Hyde is, above all, a classic, classic, CLASSIC kind of production. It’s solid and well done, for the most part. It wasn’t edgy and tended towards a bit…wan…for my admittedly fairly bloody taste in Gothic horror but was in no way offensive. If you’re in the mood for a very slightly spiced up by the book, see it.
Running at The Vagabond Players until March 2nd.
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