Los Angeles Theater Review: DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (Actors Co-op in Hollywood)

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by Tom Chaits on October 27, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

HYDE IN PLAIN SIGHT

Actors Co-op does it again! Last year’s re-imagining of The World Goes ‘Round was musical perfection and this year’s Ah, Wilderness! was a sentimental delight. Now Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde crosses genres mastering the macabre and mysterious in an equally mesmerizing manner.

Greyson Chadwick, Isaac Wade and Stephen Van Dorn in Actors Co-op’s production of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.

Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the Robert Louis Stevenson novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story – if you are one of the five people on earth who do not already know – deals with the epic battle of good and evil and the internal conflicts we all struggle with to keep the two forces in balance. Over the years the story has been brought to life in many forms. Frederick March won the 1931 Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal. Ten years later Spencer Tracy gave the good doctor a whirl and in 1997 David Hasselhoff tried to convince us all that “This is the Moment” for a Broadway musical about the boys (it wasn’t). Unfazed, American Idol alum Constantine Maroulis tuned up and gave it his best shot in the last year’s short-lived revival of the troubled musical.

Mark Bramhall and Isaac Wade in Actors Co-op’s production of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.

In all cases, the emphasis has been placed on the transformational boogieman aspects between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde rather than a deeper more philosophical approach. In this outing, director Mary Jo Duprey has chosen to forgo the special effects and delve into the darkness of our inner psyche and the end result is a great success.

Paul Turbiak in Actors Co-op’s production of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.

The time is Victorian England and the action takes place in the drawing rooms and dark alleys of provincial London. In keeping with the mandate of the theatrical school of expressionism the brilliantly conceived set by Ellen Lenbergs is stark and black with a row of suggestive and representative slanted street lamps and a few doors leaving the mind’s eye to fill in the blanks. The absence of physical sets allows the viewer’s consciousness to take over and paint its own pictures. Pablo Santiago’s lighting and the sound design by Austin Quan complete the technical trifecta in exceptional style. The costume design by Vicki Conrad is spot on.

Stephen Van Dorn and Mark Bramhall in Actors Co-op’s production of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.

Under Duprey’s inventive and imaginative direction the cast of six, most of whom play several roles, soars. They bring the stark black stylized set to life in living color. Who needs intricate sets when you have inspired direction and great performances? Stephen Van Dorn takes on the role of Dr. Jekyll and is utterly convincing as a tortured soul. As Jekyll’s love interest Elizabeth, Greyson Chadwick  is enchanting. The remaining cast members (Isaac Wade, Mark Bramhall, Paul Turbiak and Deborah Marlowe) all play Mr. Hyde at some point (sometimes simultaneously) in addition to their other roles. In all cases they do a terrific job. Special recognition must be given to dialect coach Coco Kleppinger who has schooled the cast well. So often an otherwise fantastic show is undone by terrible accents. The various accents and dialects on display here are all impeccably executed.

Stephen Van Dorn in Actors Co-op’s production of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.

If you are looking for a traditional approach to familiar material this production is not for you but if you are looking for a more intensive examination of morals and the inner workings of the human mind this show will be right up your proverbial dark alley.

Stephen Van Dorn, Isaac Wade, Mark Bramhall, Deborah Marlowe, Paul Turbiak, Greyson Chadwick in Actors Co-op’s production of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.

photos by Lindsay Schnebly

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Actors Co-op at the David Schall Theatre
1st Presbyterian Church in Hollywood
scheduled to end on November 17, 2013
for tickets, call ­(323) 462-8460 x 300 or visit http://www.actorsco-op.org

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