Phen-Fen Alert!

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Adapted and directed by D.A.G. Burgos
Creative Artists Laboratory
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

The personable, indefatigable, and seemingly ubiquitous theatre artist D.A.G. Burgos, about whom this journal has not always been kind, strikes again with grand ambitions. This time it's to tame the wild beast in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel: a project that cost dear Dr. Jekyll his life. But as they say, a scavenger who roots long enough may find a truffle.

Burgos's peculiar retelling of the story seemed as schizoid as its subject, being basically two plays from different points of view. Both versions reflect the book's conflict between science and morality far better than the current Broadway musical, one reason being that much of the writing (about an addict trying to balance two drugs to retain both highs and dignity) was lifted word for purple word from the novel. Thus, many pretty phrases that might work well for readers ("My patience has shown its heels to your politeness") fell flat on the lips of the least experienced actors. Burgos also borrowed many film techniques-always a dangerous ploy without any money to spend. But his scavenger's courage won the day, and nothing was unacceptable.

Jon Cable as Jekyll manifested his considerable acting skills with a strikingly dramatic voice. His performance, though a bit disheveled at times, never failed to make an impression.

Brian Luna as Mr. Hyde, on the other hand, gave a crisp, Tom-Cruise-like performance that had the power to redeem even a season of stinkers with a few moments of wondrous art. (Such magic was not his first stand-out performance to be noted in this journal.) An immense power seemed to seethe in him, as his actions took him to the edge of "sweet" evil. This caster of spells is definitely an actor to watch.

Michael Jalbert didn't quite have the English bluster Jekyll's lawyer would have had; but Charles Strunsee as a fading British doctor came up with an acceptable accent. The youngish Jeff Karr, as Jekyll's servant for 20 years (must have started at age six!), was properly unctuous; but Kendall Pigg needed more energy. Mindy Cassle made the most of a few good bits that landed her way, and Darrell Kirton and Tanya Klein (Mr. Burgos's co-producer) took their multiple roles through multiple paces.

As usual, this company made little effort to provide more than the absolute technical necessities, all of which were credited to George Spelvin. Such economies probably sufficed; but using a MetroCard in place of an Englishman's visiting card, although it may get someone cross-town in New York, will never get anyone close to Victoria Station.

Although Burgos sometimes gets the long line pat, his work gets bedeviled in untidy details, and thus may never reach its port. Nevertheless, though buffeted by Sturm, Drang, and even sinking, he sails on. God bless him for it.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting (leads) 2
Set 0
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1

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Copyright 1997 Marshall Yaeger