Theater Review: DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE (The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Davidson/Valentini Theatre)

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by Tony Frankel on July 26, 2018

in Theater-Los Angeles


Burt Grinstead and Anna Stromberg’s take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde switches between comedic farce and serious scenes just as slickly as Jekyll, the affable, handsome physician, becomes Hyde, a maniacal, marauding murderer. Blessedly not as silly and madcap as the stage adaptation of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, this never-lagging, 80-minute version pares down the 1886 Gothic novella, liberally swapping things around but still focusing on the central tale of a scientific experiment regarding good and evil that goes horribly wrong.

Aside from simply donning a top hat to play the titular characters, Grinstead’s change from good to evil is manifested by lowering his voice to a Sling Blade-like growl that is truly creepy, while his tongue flutters wildly, which is actually kinda sexy. It is the morphic Stromberg who slips in and out of a cunning cast of characters (maid, bobby, professor) as if they were shoes, using a simple object like a pipe (props by Eric Babb) or a hat. She switches accents and costumes — which she designed — while Grinstead builds his clever doll-house set by reconfiguring boxes and blocks in the blink of a blackout (Adam Earle and Matt Richter provide the moody lighting).

While this ingenious Hollywood Fringe entry has enough going for it to warrant a future life, it’s a bit high-strung, no doubt brought about by Fringe shows having to set up and strike in minutes. As director, Stromberg’s flourishes are often fabulous, but the formidable creators could use an outside eye to help shape the show and keep the entertaining shenanigans less one-note. Still, for the spectacular performances, clever production, and a timeless message about the human condition, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is just what the doctor ordered.

photos by Cooper Bates

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
The Los Angeles LGBT Center and Blanket Fort Entertainment
Davidson/Valentini Theatre at the L.A. LGBT Center
The Village at Ed Gould Plaza; 1125 N. McCadden Place in Hollywood
Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends on July 29, 2018
for tickets, call 323-860-7300 or visit LA Gay Center

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