Monday, January 20, 2020

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde—Experience Theatre Project—Beaverton, OR



          The Duality of Man

    This reimagining, interactive presentation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic terror tale, is transformed from Victorian England to the 1860’s Old West in America, and is adapted and directed by the company’s Founder, Alisa Stewart.  It is playing at the Masonic Lodge in Beaverton, 4690 SW Watson Ave., through February 16th.  For more information, go to their site at www.experiencetheatreproject.org

    Jekyll/Hyde has been played in films by many great actors, including John Barrymore’s campy portrayal (Silent); Spencer Tracy and Jack Palace, who simply transformed their walk, posture and voice to emulate the Hyde side, relying on their acting to do the rest (by far the most difficult).  Or, like Fredric March, who is transformed into a beast.  Or, also interesting, Jerry Lewis, who pictures Hyde as a handsome man-about-town, Buddy Love (well-acted, too), or even Tim Daly, who has his Mrs. Hyde.  And, even recently, a musical.  Open to interpretation, of course, but keep in mind, it is still Jekyll who unleashes his evil side upon the world!
    In this case, Jekyll (Richard Cohn-Lee) is attempting to rid the world of a killer disease and so, attempts to separated that bad part of a human from the good cells and ends up, almost by accident, separating good from evil, in his case into another physical being, Mr. Hyde (Steven Grawrock).  He does his experiments in a small, western town and so unleashes this monster upon the world.
    Among the townsfolk are Poole (Ryan Pfeiffer), his dedicated servant; his best friend, the well-respected attorney, Jane Utterson (Adria Malcolm), who has drawn up his will, favoring a mysterious, Mr. Hyde, as benefactor, on his death or disappearance.  There is also Millie Enfield (Falynn Burton), the astute business owner; Rev. Carew (Matthew Ostrowski), an unscrupulous minister; Hastie Lanyon (Eric Island), the upright sheriff and shop owner; his lovely, young daughter, Cecily (Lydia Fleming); and her young beau, the well-meaning, Hiram (Erik Montague).
    Other folks, include the alluring and talented, Tina (Leia Young); Jolly (Lala Gunn), the accommodating bartender; Bradshaw (Carlyn Blount), a local patron; and Sam, the piano-man (Jeffrey Michael Kauffman).  Tragedy will befall many of these folks and the whole character of the town will change over several days.  To discover their stories and the outcome of all this, you’ll just have to see it for yourselves, won’t you?!
    Now, if you saw this play on a normal stage, you’d be interested, I’m sure, in the story and performances and leave the theatre, going about your business, with no further thought of it, maybe.  But this interactive approach, places the audience squarely within their world, in which the characters move among you and even talk with you at times.  You, in fact, become part of their world and experience, first-hand, the plight of these folks and feel you are transformed back in time.
    The set (designer, Alex Meyer) is amazing and complex, occupied by two major playing areas and punctuated by some pop-out type set pieces, in which the audience can move about to view whatever scenes they choose.  There are even some clever video presentations (designer, Stewart), which enhances some background pieces of the story.  Stewart has done a remarkable job of writing and directing this very complex script into a fully, fleshed-out presentation…and it works incredibly well!
    All the cast is tuned-in together, from leads to cameos.  I felt as if I was, for a while, transported back in time to a less complicated era (and liking it).  This is part of the immersive experience the company aspires to create.  The dual roles of Jekyll and Hyde are well-played, keeping in mind that the creator of this chaos, however well-intended, is responsible for several deaths.  Malcolm is, once again, very watchable and accomplished in her performance (a side note, she played the very difficult role of Lil Bit in How I Learned To Drive and was brilliant.  I’m sure she will continue to amaze audiences with future creations).
    The performances of Burton, Ostrowski, Island, Fleming and Montague in key supporting roles, all had a professional look to them.  I assume we will see them again onstage, too.  And, as an audience, this is a unique experience, as you become captivated and, somewhat like the Holodeck in Picard’s Star Trek stories, live for a little while in someone else’s shoes in another time and place.  Trust me, it’s an exhilarating experience!
    Oh, and a message that I hope gets delivered.  I was approach by a very pretty, talented (singer and violinist) lady, Miss Tina, who said for the price of a coin, we could be alone together for a period.  Well, I have the coin now, so hope that offer is still available…oh, my gosh, I haven’t yet shaken off the results of the immersion, I guess, as there is still a part of me who wishes I was still back there, in that time period and place, with her.  Try it on for size yourself and you’ll see how addictive the spell of this show can be…!
    This is adult language and material so, be aware, it may not be for everyone.  There is also limited spaces available because of the nature of the show, so get your tickets soon.  I highly recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS




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