Sunday, November 14, 2021

Professor Jekyll & Miss Hyde—Theatre Berk at Twilight Theater—N. Portland


What a Piece of Work is (Wo)Man”

    This is a modern re-telling of Robert Louis Stephenson’s classic tale of the duality of man, adapter by the producer, William Thomas Berk and directed by Shannon Walcott-Cluphf.  The production plays through November 28that Twilight’s space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave. (off Lombard, free parking in the church parking lot across the street) Normal Covid protocol is expected…vaccine cards and masks.  For more information, go to their site at

    There have been many versions of this classic tale of Good and Evil.  One of the earliest has Fredric March playing Hyde in the 30’s, literally as a monster.  Spencer Tracy then came along later in the 40’s, with hardly any make-up, to show the transformation.  Jack Palance did a television version.  And there has even been a musical version (performed very well in Portland by Kirk Mouser).  There was even a film version with a male Jekyll and female Hyde.  But, though, the most interested was by Jerry Lewis as The Nutty Professor, playing Hyde as a suave, snobbish singer called, Buddy Love and, perhaps, patterned on his old mate, Dean Martin.

    The theme may boil down to the proverbial question of whether there is even a God (Good) and a Devil (Evil).  An old fable (Mexican in origin, I believe) says, in short, if you believe in evil or a demon, that proves the existence of God, because there would be no reason for one, unless the opposite existed, too.  And so, what happens, when the two come face to face with each other and, thus, we have this gripping tale.

    Being, in part, a mystery, I can’t reveal too much of the tale without giving away key elements an audience should discover.  But I will tell you this is a modern-day, re-imagining of the story, with mainly a female cast in most of the key roles, echoing for this purpose, the Me-Too Movement.

    College professor, Mary Jekyll (Kate Faye Cummings) is engaged in a secret project at her school, which she feels will benefit mankind, in short, the ridding of evil from man’s nature.  But she won’t let anyone observe the results of such experiments, not even a trusted assistant, “Bobbie” Poole (Rachel Ladd).  And the head of the school, Dean Otteson (Shelley Tate) is too absorbed in school politics to pay much notice.

    But then the atmosphere on campus changes when a prominent professor (Samuel Alexander Hawkins), is torn to bits and he was last seen in a bar with a supposed prostitute.  It is also notable that he was an alleged rapist of students and so not all mourned of his passing.  But Poole and her wife, Louisa (Meghan Daaboul) decide to do some detecting on their own and they discover some uncomfortable connections to Jekyll’s mysterious friend, Zela Hyde.  To discover the rest, you’ll just have to see it.

    This adaptation does follow some interesting philosophical discussions about right and wrong, and good and evil and so also becomes a diatribe on that, as well as a chilling story.  Cummings is excellent in the dual roles, as her whole body seems to evolve, as well as her acting style, portraying the two characters.  Kudos to her and hope to see more of her onstage…in either incarnation.

    Berk’s play is a good grasp on an age-old subject, with women in the prominent roles.  It gets a bit preachy at time but nevertheless is an interesting examination of the dual nature of a person. Cluphf has kept the play moving at a brisk pace and her choice of actors for the roles is spot-on.  Also many  kudos to the set changers…Caralynn Rose, Maddy Gourlay, Rosalyn Long and Berk.  They deserve as much praise as the actors!

    I recommend this play.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.



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