Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde emanates darkness and drama


Abby Kempf

I love a good melodrama, but there is a thin line between captivating and unbelievable. Talking Horse’s Production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde flirted with the line constantly throughout the show.

Talking Horse's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde production poster.
Talking Horse’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde production poster.
The stage adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, directed by William Palmer, follows the story of a well-to-do doctor, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and his battle with this alter ego, Mr. Edward Hyde, a brutal murderer. The script explores multiple personality along with enduring fight between good and evil inside each person. Ultimately, Mr.Hyde wins out, killing his counterpart to avoid being cast away yet again. The show details the death of many characters, all at the hand of a theatrical Hyde. There must have between at least twenty blood curdling screams over the course of the production.
The script was not superb, with many scenes that seemed to be simply memorized, stage readings of the original text. It was very telly and not very showy.
Also, due to an apparent shortage of actors, almost every actor or actress played multiple roles, which could be very confusing. Craig Yager played the roles of Sir Danvers Carew, Richard Enfield, O.F. Sanderson, the Inspector, and was one of the multiple actors who played Edward Hyde. Each time he entered the stage I had to carefully listen before I would understand who he was, and even after whole scenes were over I would still be puzzling over who he was supposed to be exactly.
Another source of confusion was the fact that Edward Hyde was played by several different actors, all wearing red masks. In some scenes even, multiple actors would be playing Hyde at the same time. But after further pondering, I have decided this was to illustrate that everyone has a bad side – each one of us has some Mr. Hyde in us, not just Dr. Jekyll. In this sense, the decision makes perfect sense, its creative licensing done right.
Dr. Jekyll was played by Kevin Kelley. While he started strong, with an impressively accurate British accent – a real anomaly in community theaters – his performance turned into a fit of theatrics as he began to scream all of his lines, instead of acting the subtleties of his character. It can be difficult to bring an unrealistic character to life in a realistic way. Real human emotion rises and falls, but even at its height screaming every single word is an exaggeration.
Sarah Jost, playing Mr. Hyde’s love interest Elizabeth Jelkes, was absolutely phenomenal. Her accent, her nuances, even her costume exuded a daring English woman of the 19th century. I have loved her in everything I have seen her in, such as her performance as Rosalind in As You Like it and Violet Beauregarde in Hello Dolly, and continue to be impressed with her versatility.
The three main characters, from left, Mr. Hyde, played in this scene by Brett Bullard, Dr. Jekyll played by Kevin Kelley, and Elizabeth Jelkes played by Sarah Jost. This scene came just moments before the death of one of our characters. Photo courtesy of Talking Horse Productions
The three main characters, from left, Mr. Hyde, played in this scene by Brett Bullard, Dr. Jekyll played by Kevin Kelley, and Elizabeth Jelkes played by Sarah Jost. This scene depicts Dr. Jekyll trying to avoid being found guilty of murder committed by his counterpart Hyde. Photo courtesy of Talking Horse Productions
On the technical end, one blatant mistake was the door. Whether it never work, or it recently broke, each scene the door became the focal point at one time or another as an actor struggled uncomfortably to open and shut it. Also the door was practically the only set piece, save for a few wooden crates, it couldn’t have been that hard to make sure the door worked properly. The light scheme, however, was truly captivating and successfully served its purpose of adding to the scene without being distracting.
Despite some obvious flaws, I can’t say that this production was bad. Talking Horse has been consistently entertaining, if not perfect. Past performances such as Songs for a New World show this little theater can pack a punch, even if its casts are small in size.
To experience the horror and the suspense of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde next weekend October 24-25 at 7:30 p.m. and October 26 at 2 p.m. at Talking Horse Productions, 210 Saint James St.
By Abby Kempf