I am aware that some of my readers aren't lucky enough to live in Hoboken. There are some who don't even live in commuting distance. But those of you who can possibly get here need to know about one of the most thrilling theatrical performances you'll ever see.The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been in the consciousness of the English-speaking world since Robert Louis Stevenson first penned the novella in 1886. Stevenson hit a nerve with his dark tale of multiple personality disorder before it had a name, heightened by its setting in Victorian London with its pea-soup fog, in a period of uptight sexual mores, and many unsolved gory murders. The tale of the kind and beloved doctor who has a secret life as an unspeakable degenerate sociopath fascinates and created a mythology of its own. To put this well-known and often seen story onstage as a play creates a challenge very ably met by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, who created a piece for actors playing many parts. This device can be distracting, but in the hands of the superb cast at the Hudson Ensemble Theater's production opening tonight at the theater in the Hudson School, 601 Park Avenue, it's always exciting and theatrical.
The pleasant Dr. Jekyll, although less charming than he's usually portrayed in the movies, is ably acted by Toby Wherry. In this version of the story, Jekyll is earnest and well-meaning, but hardly a man about town--a doctor with radical ideas, fraught with conflict and passion, both of which Wherry manages to convey throughout the production. His hatred for his superior in the hospital, Sir Danvers Carew (played magnificently by Thomas Tyburski) is palpable from the outset of the drama.Emma Peele, a Canadian actress who is one of the all-time best Victorian screamers I have ever heard, plays a lady of dubious virtue of interest to both the good doctor Jekyll and his evil alter ego, Mr. Hyde. A very appealing actress, Ms. Peele balances her elegance with an inner passion that makes her a perfect partner for the formidable Hyde.
In this version of the story, Mr. Hyde is a person entirely separate from Dr. Jekyll. In fact, he seems to inhabit almost everybody in the play at one point or another. For the most part, the role is played by Sam Egge, in a turn so exquisite that I was not aware he too was playing multiple parts. The women are exceptionally well cast as men, with the versatile Florence Pape showing us even more of what she can do and newcomer Anneli Curnock bouncing in adeptly both as male and female, with one of the best lines of the evening, "I stayed to watch."
None of this is as confusing as it sounds. The play is superbly directed, and ticks along from beginning to end like a well-wound clock. It confronts the duality of all our personalities and spins the old story by making us wonder what Hyde has done now and who next will find Hyde in him. I have been to thousands of plays in my life, directed hundreds and played in more than a few--but at the end of this one I was covered with goosepimples. Safe as Hoboken is, it was not all that easy walking home alone in the dark and acting cool as I tried to get my key in the door.
Dates & Times:
Fridays @ 8PM: April 9 & April 16, 2010
Saturdays @ 8PM: April 10 & April 17, 2010
Sunday Matinee @ 3PM: April 11, 2010
Info/Reservations: 201-377-7014 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by John Crittenden