Theater Interview: BRUCE TURK (Starring in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” at North Coast Rep)

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by Milo Shapiro on October 12, 2023

in Interviews,Theater-Regional,Theater-San Diego

From October 18 to November 12, 2023, North Coast Repertory Theatre is presenting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a daring reimagining of Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless tale, filled with darkness, desire, love, and unbridled terror. Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher delves deep into the human psyche, exploring the eternal conflict between good and evil. Relentless forces engage in a deadly and electrifying cat-and-mouse showdown, vying for ultimate domination. Hatcher masterfully invites the audience to question their loyalties, blurring the lines between right and wrong, leaving all in suspense.

Bruce Turk, who is playing Dr. Henry Jekyll, recently appeared at North Coast Rep as Gayev in The Cherry Orchard, Alexander in Annabella in July, and Same Time Next Year. He has worked extensively with Julie Taymor, appearing in her productions of Titus AndronicusJuan Darien, and The Green Bird and has made numerous appearances with Theatre For A New Audience. San Diego audiences have seen him in fifteen productions of Shakespeare at the Old Globe Theatre.

Stage and Cinema‘s writer Milo Shapiro was able to chat with Mr. Turk during rehearsals.

Milo Shapiro: Bruce, this classic has been interpreted many ways over the years. Is it purely a thriller or are there other elements to it like comedy, romance, etc.?

Bruce Turk: This is certainly a mystery thriller. It’s full of suspense, but there are also scenes of rich, psychological drama was well. And it is laced with a sardonic—almost gothic—humor, which is fun.

Bruce Turk in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at North Coast Rep (Aaron Rumley)

MS: Would you call it outright scary or more suspenseful?

BT: Scary is a relative term—it depends on what frightens you. Personally, I like a good psychological story, one that disturbs, challenges, and surprises. We’ve got all that here. Along with the real threat of madness and violence running through the gut of it.

Amanda Evans, James Sutorius, Bruce Turk in The Cherry Orchard (Ken Jacques)

MS: You’ve been in the 1800s for The Cherry Orchard, the 1600s for The Green Bird, and the 1960s for The Homecoming. Now Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde takes us, and you, back to the 1800s. What is it about period pieces that seem to draw you?

BT: All of these pieces employ heightened language and require the physical demands that go along with that. They not only require acute technical and rhetorical skills, but also require a great deal of physical energy to get them off of the ground. But style isn’t everything. A good period piece marries form with content. The form, of course, has to be filled with something deeply human. A heightened style, delivered with precision, attention to detail, and real heart can reveal character while also transporting us into the imagination. Also…I’ve always wanted to be a time traveler…

Bruce Turk, Jacquelyn Ritz, Louis Lotorto in Annabella in July (Aaron Rumley)

MS: Are there some challenges as an actor in doing period pieces that you don’t have to consider in a contemporary story?

BT: Again, it’s the language. The challenges are significant, but so are the rewards. I find Shakespeare to be the greatest challenge. Working with Shakespeare’s texts can prepare you for pretty much anything.

Bruce Turk and Conner Marx in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Aaron Rumley)

MS: The press release only names the characters of Jekyll himself and one other character, known as Elizabeth Jelkes. Who is she in this interpretation?

BT: Hatcher has introduced her as an instigator. Like the dynamic accelerator in a chemical compound, he has dropped her into the mix in order to explore the effects of love and compassion on the Hyde side of things. Jekyll is a man who has nothing but his work and a great secret. He is alone. He is lonely. Hatcher explores how a longing for human connection might play a role in Jekyll’s story.

Katie MacNichol and Bruce Turk in Same Time, Next Year (Aaron Rumley)

MS: I noted that, along with your time in The Cherry Orchard, you’re in yet another play with your wife, Katie MacNichol. Any pros and cons to being in a production with someone that close to you?

BT: Katie and I didn’t start working together until both of our careers were well established, which enabled us to develop our processes independently. Now, we’re fortunate to have done about two dozen productions together. She’s a wonderfully open, inclusive and inspiring company member. I learn so much from her on each show. She’s really fascinated by human behavior and she has great insights into human character, so I get to incorporate a lot of her perspective into the roles I play. This isn’t a conscious thing, so much as an absorption over time. Occasionally we’ll confer over a practical thing here or there, but on the whole we stay out of each others’ way. Creatively, there’s a lot of trust, so that creates ease. There are ZERO cons in this arrangement.

 Katie MacNichol in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at North Coast Rep (Aaron Rumley)

MS: Without giving away too much, tell us about a choice made by director Shana Wride that made the production even better than what you foresaw in reading the script.

BT: Certain elements of this story walk on the edge of melodrama. True, classic melodrama can be exhilarating, but with this play if you aren’t careful to create truly grounded, thinking, feeling characters, then you can rely too much on style and the product can become superficial. But Shana has an uncanny ability to articulate story from the characters’ points of view. She can plumb the dark depths of character motivation and thought process. This genius makes for an incredibly rich interpretation, which might otherwise end up as something slick and polished, but ultimately shallow. We’re lucky to have her on this one.

Bruce Turk and Shana Wride in North Coast Rep's Faded Glory (Aaron Rumley)

MS: Any other neat tidbits about this show to watch for?

BT: I could tell you, but it would spoil the surprise…

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
North Coast Repertory Theatre
987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach
Wed and Thurs at 7; Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
plays October 18 – November 12, 2023
for tickets, call 858.481-1055 or visit North Coast Rep

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