Classics are not sacrosanct, but not every reconception deserves to be moved out of the development stage. Assorted plots have been imposed on Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with varying degrees of success (even Abbott and Costello met the guys). But for this "original play," Jules Tasca has misguidedly taken his cue from Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fight Club and its recent film version (this is not a guess, it is invoked in the program and press material). Whatever that property's merits, the impact on this production is ruinous.
At first glance, it might seem sensible to have Jekyll and Hyde as two separate characters, played by two actors (James Thalman and Joe Capozzi), but the idea quickly became unworkable. The struggle is between two facets of one character, and in no way is this conveyed by the push/pull that Tasca attempts to dramatize between Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll does not become his other self, because someone else already is.
Note to Tasca: the film of Fight Club worked, in its way, because of the third-act surprise revelation (warning: plot disclosure ahead) that the alter ego exists only in the character's mind.
The plot retains the trappings of Stevenson, but Tasca has also altered the familiar (i.e. Hollywood, non-RLS) good-girl-fiancée/bad-girl-streetwalker plot and made the women sisters, which permits him to include a tortured father (a vicar) and a ludicrous ending.
But any possibility for an engaging theatrical experience was dealt a final blow from Thalman's stunningly wooden and flat performance as Jekyll. He generated absolutely no interest, leaving the rest of the cast to flounder in the dull staging by Ken Terrell. That any of them made an impression at all made them worthy of combat pay. Eileen O'Connell was bright and alive as Jekyll's fiancée, Rachel Aronson worked hard at the sluttishness of her sister, Robert Macaulay almost made sense of their father, and Joe Capozzi was splenetic but watchable as Hyde. Farrell Kaye was solid as Jekyll's manservant, and Rosalyn McClore had some fire as his wife, in spite of the foolish (and obvious) subplot imposed on their characters (in Victorian England such things were not spoken of . . .). Best of all was Jaime Velez as Jekyll's friend and confidante, who (through sheer will?) managed to be sympathetic, even absorbing. An occasional scene with good performers (as one between Hyde, fiancée, and vicar) would raise hopes, but when Jekyll spoke at length on life and consciousness, the slow proceedings came to a complete halt.
No set was used in this black-box theatre; costumes and lighting
(uncredited) were to the point. Unlike much of what was on stage.
When not playing a scene, the cast was sitting on the sides of
the stage, their heads down. Were they praying? Embarrassed? Sleeping?
Planning their next career moves? Better luck next time to them
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Copyright 2000 David Mackler