The first thing that struck me at the Ivy Tech Community College production of Jekyll and Hyde is the mostly grey set by David Wade, perhaps the most elaborate set that I’ve seen in the Rose Fire bay. There’s a complex laboratory on the left, then a table and a couple of chairs for the police inspector, a bit to the back the door that Hyde comes and goes through and then to the right a more formal door and a couple of chairs that come and go as needed. The lighting of Brennen Edwards is low and as the characters appear in Hannah Decker’s makeup they all look a bit like the “walking dead.” Their cheeks, chins and foreheads are grey. It gradually dawned on me that there’s an outline around the faces. They all seem to be wearing masks.
Nicholas Briggs’ engaging new adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella does begin with a violent Hyde murdering a prominent citizen, and then follows the original’s story line much more closely than most. It lets the characters on stage wrestle with the mystery. Although we all know that Jekyll becomes Hyde and visa versa Russell McGee’s staging offers a single Jekyll and two masked actors playing Hyde. The novella’s narrator, the lawyer Utterson gradually comes to grasp the changes in his friend Dr. Jekyll, fellow scientist Dr. Lanyon is forced into recognizing them, and the frustrated police inspector Newcomen is the last to understand.
The cast is a strong one. Tania Dimick is superb as Maisy the addled maid who witnesses the initial murder. Elisabeth Westphal is effective as the upright deeply conflicted Mrs. Poole the housekeeper for Dr. Jekyll. Tayler Fischer is equally focused and conflicted as the upright maid of Dr. Lanyon. Brynn Jones is nicely unupright as the maid of the Mr. Hydes.
Joshua Burkholder plays lawyer Utterson, central figure in the unraveling of the mystery with an apparent innocence and easy skill through his variety of experiences. Ashwin Joseph is his friend, confidant and walking partner Enfield. Thomas Tiggleman as Inspector Newcomen is dogged in his determination to understand what’s clearly un-understandable with the aid his trusty constable Ian Collier. Ten year old Braelyn Dimick screams well and is the young girl that the Hydes run down. Emily Solt McGee as Dr. Lanyon supplies some of the clues for Utterson and is destroyed by actually seeing the Hydes.
Joel Watson’s dramatically presented Dr. Jekyll is of course at the center of things. It’s the doctor’s hope to unite his good side and bad side more fully through chemical means. To his horror the transformation exhibits all the bad with a healthy appetite for exploration that the gentle doctor rather enjoys. For Hyde, director McGee has chosen to include a pair, Heidi Mikac and Tyler Wachsmann. The two do great job of dueting and alternating their dialog and actions. Frankly, when I think about it, two Hydes don’t make sense, but they were so good at it that I just stopped thinking.
Throughout the evening Russell McGee’s blocking and staging flowed very nicely in and around David Wade’s set. The principal action worked well and in a couple of instances extras and the stage crew were called on for effective crowd scenes. The unwinding of the story with those familiar characters takes a little getting used to, and the effort is well worth it
The Ivy Tech College production of Jekyll & Hyde plays April 12-20 with final performances this evening and Saturday at 7:30.
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker