New Century's 'Dr. Jekyll' is nearly flawless

October 10, 1991|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

A splendid version of the ultimate psychological thriller "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is on stage at the Spotlighters Theatre through Oct. 27.

This excellent new adaptation by the show's producer, director and star, Mark Redfield, in collaboration with actor Stuart Voytilla, is faithful to the original Robert Louis Stevenson novel. The very sophisticated, intellectual work presents, as Stevenson intended, the fascinating tale of the good and evil warring within us in the form of a good, old-fashioned mystery.

Redfield's production under the banner of New Century Theater is the best of its kind this reviewer has ever seen. All the parts are perfectly cast down to the most insignificant character.

Although originally written for the proscenium stage, the work plays well in the limited confines of the arena theater.

The classical language is vintage Stevenson. The mood is eerie, spooky and chilling. Scenes have intriguing symbolic and abstract undertones. The sparse, black-and-white surrealistic imagery designed by Redfield and carried out by scenic artist Kelly Phillips is extremely effective.

Redfield's direction is masterful -- practically flawless. Every actor has a proper attitude for his or her role and all interact beautifully -- always making important eye contact.

Timing and character development are superb and the suspense is hair-raising.

The marvelous fight sequences were arranged by Lewis Shaw.

Set in 1890 London, the play opens with the accounting of the dastardly deeds of a man called Hyde, a beastly, brutal creature without remorse or pity.

The evil Hyde, somehow, has access to the house of the kindly Dr. Henry Jekyll. Franklin Utterson, Jekyll's longtime loyal lawyer, is worried that his friend is under some dark threat by this man who has committed a number of foul crimes. He enlists the aid of others to unravel the puzzle.

Dr. Jekyll is a man of inherited wealth. Imbued with a deep feeling of compassion for the less fortunate, he divides his time between the poor hospital wards and his private practice.

Impressed with Darwin's evolution theories, he engages in research to determine the biological base for the good and evil in man. He wants to set loose and separate the shadowy elements of the primitive human psyche. He eventually finds these qualities in the form of the pernicious Hyde.

Redfield plays both roles. As the upright, uptight, gentle Jekyll and the horrifying Hyde crouching ape-like and wild-eyed around the stage, he is magnificent. A consummate professional artist, Redfield's attention to the finer details of his character is matchless.

Others in this outstanding cast are: Jimi Kinstle as the nasty, elitist brother of Jekyll's love, Melissa, who is played with exquisite sensitivity by Johanna Cox; Brian P. Chetelat as their mentally confused father; Larry Malkus as the faithful Utterson; Donna Sherman as Hyde's long suffering trollop (Sherman could use stronger projection of character); Ron Bopst as the probing Scotland Yard inspector; Bob Tull as a low-life cripple; Katie Horn as a pathetic, abused child; Ted R. Frankenhauser as a concerned doctor; Trisha Marney as the understanding maid.

*

The traumas of childhood are explored in funny and poignant ways in the Touchstone Theatre production of "We All Fall Down" running at the Theatre Project through Sunday.

Conceived and performed by Eric Beatty and Susan Chase (under the precise choreographed direction of Daniel Stein), the work is a product of a Bethlehem, Penn., company dedicated to the creation and presentation of original ensemble drama.

The 70 minutes are an entertaining combination of silliness and personal agony as the duo enact moments from early childhood to troubled adolescence. Playing, fighting or singing "The New Baby Blues," the two are a joy to behold. As they cavort about on the colorful playroom set they experience first love, first kiss and the meaning of "first base."

The movement on stage is always graceful and both Beatty and Chase offer admirable, effortless performances.

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