Victorian story benefits from period-specific costumes and lighting
Members of the cast of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Adapted from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson by Noah Smith, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde looks great, but feels outdated and irrelevant.

Set in Victorian England, Dr. Jekyll, a well-known and respected scientist has developed a formula which transforms him into his alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. The classic tale continues as Jekyll and Hyde battle each other for control.

In his program notes, director Alex Kirkpatrick asks: “how far down is the monster in each of us, and are they even a monster?”

An interesting frame, and while this large question could lead the production, it is not effectively explored beyond the theme of dual personalities already inherent in the story.

Without specific directorial choices to delve into this question, the production is simply a straight re-telling. Leaving the theatre, there is confusion about why this story was chosen now and its relevance in our lives today. If intended to explore the monster inside each of us, it was not clear beyond the director’s notes.

As Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Brent Fidler is given the large task of revisiting the classic characters. Fidler does a good job, though at times he appears to be pushing the anger. There is also a sense that Jekyll initially changed into Hyde because he was not bold enough to sleep with Cybel (Mia Ingimundson), the neighbourhood prostitute. This weakens the stakes of the story, creating less sympathy for the character.

The standout performers in the cast are the playful duet of the Maid (Lisa Baran) and Butler (Sean Patrick Sonier), who transform into many characters. There is confusion about their role at times though, as it feels as if they are meant to represent Dr. Jekyll’s inner demons, but this is not entirely clear.

There were also some frustrating moments including pretending to drink from an empty cup, and repetitive scene changes with narration of the furniture in each location, ending with “and a door”.

The costumes, designed by Julie White, are extraordinary, with many elaborate gowns and outfits of the time. A standout for her costumes are those created for Lara Rova, who plays Helen O’Neill, and who changes gowns multiple times throughout the show.

The lighting is carefully thought out, with multiple lamps and a chandelier centre stage. The use of odd red and green lights are jarring though, particularly at the top of the show as the story switches back and forth through time.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is well thought out in terms of costumes and lighting from the period, unfortunately as a contemporary piece of theatre it doesn’t quite work.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Noah Smith, adapted from the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Directed by Alex Kirkpatrick. A Theater Crossing production. On stage at the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (2305 West 7th Ave, Vancouver) until November 19. Tickets are available online.

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