By Lynn Geyer
Perhaps, it was a poem from the “Rubaiyat” by Omar Khayyam that gave Robert Lewis Stevenson the idea for “The Strange Tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” for surely the same poem gave a similar idea to his contemporary countryman, Oscar Wilde, when he wrote “The Picture of Dorian Gray” as both horror stories are loosely drawn from the same four lines:
In the Victorian era medical doctors often more resembled leaders of the Holy Spanish Inquisition than healers. Little was known of the human body much less the mind.
The distinction between body and mind intrigued the Scottish author; thus he took it upon himself to delve into the subject.
Stevenson advocated that there is a distinct difference between the brain and the mind and to study each, one must find the door between.
Playwright Jeffery Hatcher adapted his offering from Stevenson’s novella of Good verses Evil. Hatcher gives us a different Hyde than we have known – one with multi-persona – with different levels of evil. Where Stevenson saw a division between Good and Evil, Hatcher sees a blending of the two states. He entices the audience to look within to explore the multiple aspects of themselves.
Director Elliot Weiner warns his Tacoma Little Theatre audience that this is not “your grandfather’s ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’” – and he couldn’t be more right!
Weiner has cast four actors in the role of Hyde – although all are evil, each possesses a different facet of the character. The Hydes appear on stage singularly or much like a Greek chorus of alter-egos doing live voice-overs.
In this duplicity, Hyde knows everything Jekyll does; however, Jekyll is oblivious to Hyde’s actions.
Weiner has developed a brilliant method for Hyde reverting to Jekyll.
The technique he uses for this production is a combination of docudrama and conventional staging. But whatever you may call it, in a word, it works. Weiner’s ability to move his actor’s around the stage with alacrity while they master the numerous scene and character changes is amazing.
This is partially due to the scenic design. Brett Carr has given the audience the door which Stevenson eluded one must find to understand the mind. It opens and closes on each of the many scenes in the production. All this is complimented by Carr’s light design.
Michele Graves and Sam O’Hara are responsible for the perfect Victorian costume design which the cast wears in comfort as though they have always done so.
The greatest enhancement to Weiner’s direction is background and underlying original music composed and played by Leslie Foley. Foley masterfully creates the feel of each scene she scored.
Weiner has chosen his cast wisely with a mixture of new TLT performers and proven veterans of the 93-year-old theatre.
Katelyn Hoffman makes her TLT debut as Orderly 1 and Young Girl; Josh Johnson is Orderly 2 and Man. Both do their parts nicely.
Nicole Lockett returns to TLT as Elizabeth, the one person who sees the goodness of Jekyll in Hyde. She reacts well to changing emotions her character must exhibit.
Mark Peterson is Hyde 1 and Utterson, an associate of Jekyll’s. Peterson ably displays his concern for his colleague as he does the bestiality of Hyde.
Blake R. York is Hyde 2, the Inspector and Carew. York is devilish as #2, methodical as the Inspector and impudent as Carew. He turns his usual fine performance.
Jennie Jenks is Hyde 4 and Poole, Jekyll’s servant. As Poole, she is dutifully proper and concerned; as #4, she is fiendishly wicked.
Niclas R. Olson is Hyde 3 and Lanyon, Jekyll’s friend. As Lanyon, Olsen is properly concerned; as Hyde, he is simply maniacal – but around Elizabeth, he becomes gentle, showing the unexpected compassionate side of the beast. He does an excellent job in the role.
It is amazing how these four actors, although far from resembling each other, can uniquely portray the same person so believably. They each do a remarkable job of maintaining their separate persona of each role they take on.
Micheal O’Hara is Jekyll. The actor plays the role with a silent cry for help for the theory which has eaten away at his soul from the beginning of the play until the final curtain. O’Hara is outstanding in the part. He exudes the calmness and derangement required for all aspects of Jekyll.
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” continues at Tacoma Little Theatre at 210 North I Street through November 6 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. matinees Sundays. There is a Pay-What-You-Can performance Thursday, October 20 and an Actor’s Benefit performance Thursday, October 27, both at 7:30 p.m.
For more information or to make reservations call the theatre at (253) 272-2281 or go online to www.tacomalittletheatre.com.
In keeping with the upcoming season, Weiner admonishes his audience to, “Be afraid. Be very afraid of the person sitting next to you.” One more caution: Don’t get too close to the stage!