say your piece
155 30 OCTOBER 2003
No Reason to Heckle at Jekyll
By Bobbi Parry
Mr. Hyde (Kurt Rhoads) jekylls with Mr. Utterson (Stephen Temperley) in Pioneer Theatre's "Jekyll and Hyde."

he story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been done and done several times over, from a fairly regrettable musical version to “The Nutty Professor” (just think of it as the comedy version). So it’s to the Pioneer Theater Company’s credit that their production of “Jekyll and Hyde” is, first of all, not a musical, and second, good.

Just in case you have managed to avoid the story thus far in life, Dr. Jekyll, an English scientist of the late 19th century, becomes fascinated with discovering the secret to the darker side of human nature. After receiving his father’s notebooks on the subject, he de-vises a potion that turns him into his evil counterpart, Mr. Hyde. His life slowly overturns as his mur-dering, impregnating, menace-to-society alter ego takes over his existence. His friends and loved ones grow all the more suspicious of his mysterious friend, and he becomes increasingly unable to stop him.

It’s a relatively new, reworked version of the story, first per-formed in Birmingham (England, not Alabama) in 1996. Perhaps be-cause of this, it avoids many of the potholes of the Victorian British thriller. Yes, there are the heavy ac-cents and the strict Victorian val-ues—and the walking sticks that double sooo easily as weapons, but the play is also an examination of identity and how it ties in to the sins of our past (and present).

At the beginning, the play devotes a bit of discussion to these issues, but they don’t drag it down. Perhaps due in part to being a modern reworking, “Jekyll and Hyde” moves trippingly along, going from the initial idea to its fulfillment (and over-fulfill-ment) fairly quickly. Sadly, the tail end of the play does get dragged down under the weight of its own pathos. Far from just receiv-ing his father’s notebooks, Jekyll apparently received most of his life’s problems there as well. Other plot events smack of the late 20th century as well. However, the body of the play manages to balance out all this drama with the piece’s actual action.

And when he isn’t bouncing around like a 10-year-old and hiding under the table, Mr. Hyde (played by Tony Blair look-alike Kurt Rhoads), is a damn good vil-lain. With his menacing chuckle and wicked sneer, it’s actually believable when other characters on stage have no clue that he is the same man as their upstanding Dr. Jekyll. You are honestly disturbed when you see him hiding behind a door or accosting people in the street.

You also honestly wish the sound guy would turn down that damn clock ticking in the back-ground every time something bad is about to happen, and scale the ominous music waaayyy back. Fortunately, the cool revolving set makes up for the unwanted noise. The production makes good use of a triangular wall that reduces set pieces to shadows and outlines as it moves.

Details like this are what keep “Jekyll and Hyde” firmly planted in the thriller category, and what make it as good as it is.

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” plays through Nov. 15. Tickets are available at Call 355-ARTS for more information.
Mr. Hyde (Kurt Rhoads) jekylls with Mr. Utterson (Stephen Temperley) in Pioneer Theatre’s “Jekyll and Hyde.”

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