Produced by: City Lights Theater Company
Directed by: Mark Anderson Phillips
Featuring: George Psarras, Max Tachis, Keith C. Marshall, Adam Magill, Lucy Littlewood, Kendall Callaghan, Caitlyn Slavich, Joseph Hidde
Fight direction by: Kit Wilder
When: September 17 through October 18, 2015
Where: City Lights Theater Company, 529 South Second Street, San Jose, California
Tickets: $17-$32 (discounts available). Visit cltc.org or call 408-295-4200.
'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'
in Jeffrey Hatcher play at City Lights in San Jose
If there was such a thing as a black diamond cut, polished and beautiful that is what we could call the City Lights production of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
Directed by the amazingly talented Mark Anderson Phillips, there is no part of this show that is not fascinating and excellent. At its best moments, it is electrifying.
Jeffrey Hatcher wrote the script, adapted from the Robert Louis Stevenson novella, "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
The play is an exquisite examination of the good and the bad inside the heart of an intelligent, humanist man. Jekyll, a scientist, seeks via chemistry to separate the good and the bad in a human being, to remove the bad. Accidently, he leaves the good inside himself, but creates Mr. Hyde, who is all of mankind's worst qualities, in a monstrous person.
George Psarras is a huge part of this production, from the first moment the audience walks into the auditorium to the accompaniment of some wild, spooky organ music. Throughout the show, Psarras, resident sound designer and composer at City Lights, keeps the audience in 1883 London, with sounds of horses' hooves and steel-rimmed wagon wheels on cobble stones, and even birds in a park.
(The sounds of jets passing overhead from Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport are a minor and infrequent annoyance; maybe someday City Lights will have the money to put some insulation in its open-beam roof.)
And Ron Gasparinetti's excellent and beautiful set puts us even stronger in place, as do the props by Miranda Whipple and costumes by Melissa Sanchez. Lighting by Nick Kumamoto is excellent throughout, adding to the dark feeling of this sometimes morbid tale.
But what really sets this show apart is the overwhelming quality of the acting. Every performer is fully committed to his or her part, and once the play is entered, there is no dropping out because of a poor performance.
I've seen most of these actors before, but have never seen them do better work, which I suspect is the influence of Mark Anderson Phillips, one of the best and most-hired actors in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one noted for his full commitment to any role he plays. When he steps on stage, Phillips disappears, and only the character remains.
That is what happens with this entire cast in this show.
And front and center is an excellent performance by sound director Psarras, in the lead role of Dr. Jekyll. His Jekyll is a solid, 19th century British gentleman and scholar, confident in his intelligence and morality.
One of his best scenes is when he berates another doctor at a teaching hospital for his misogynistic and incorrect diagnoses at the postmortem examination of a prostitute who'd been beaten to death. Psarras is in full believable rant in a scene that carries much irony.
Completely astounding as an actor really, he reaches higher than anyone else is Adam Magill, as Jekyll's Scottish friend, Dr. H.K.Laynon, and in three other roles. Magill has plenty of stage charisma and presence, but the key talent is convincingly disappearing into each of his roles. His every little twitch and tic communicates some part of character.
Fletcher's play brilliantly splits the evil Mr. Hyde into four roles. This clever trick allows the audience to see Hyde interacting in different situations and opposite different characters, and when the drama really starts to hit the fan, allows all four to torture Jekyll.
It is powerful and electrifying.
Phillips created the most dominant of the Hyde characters in 2008, when the play premiered at Arizona Theatre Company, and recreated it later at San Jose Rep. That is the Hyde portrayed by Magill, and Magill really delivers in the character's most shocking and emotional moment.
Lucy Littlewood is another Hyde, and is quite scary in delivering a powerful rant (I think I am grateful her face wasn't pointed at me through the fourth wall during that bit). She is also Poole, Jekyll's servant.
Keith C. Marshall, who's become a City Lights regular, is another strong Hyde, and also plays Dr. Carew (berated by Jekyll, then murdered by Hyde), and three other roles.
Max Tachis, another City Lights regular, reaches new levels of acting excellence as the other Hyde, and also as Jekyll's friend, Gabriel Utterson.
Kendall Callaghan has a great scream as the chamber maid who is, ironically, scared by Dr. Jekyll but falls in love with Hyde, having only seen Hyde's few moments of decency.
Caitlyn Slavich and Joseph Hidde are on hand as silent orderlies, mostly moving set pieces around or holding them in place. It is an aspect of this show that their behavior on stage turning their faces from the audience helps set the overwhelming mood of this production.
Kudos to City Lights and its Executive Artistic Director Lisa Mallette. It's a joy to see the company deliver this level of excellence.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org