‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ opens Thunder River Theatre season
The Thunder River Theatre Co. opens its season this week with a plunge into fog and blood through Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic horror story, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
The production features regulars as well as newcomers to the Thunder River stage, including Owen O’Farrell, Franz Alderfer, Cassidy Willey, Gerald DeLisser, Nathan Cox and Jennifer Schiller.
Offstage staff includes Sean Jeffries, Murray Johnson, Jennifer Schiller and Madeline Miles, Diane Johnson and Collin Tugwell.
It’s also Corey Simpson’s debut as executive artistic director.
“It’s a provocative, fun and challenging piece to start off our new season,” he said. “Everyone is familiar with the story of Jekyll and Hyde and the audience knows they can expect an unforgettable experience. … This adaptation is known for not being your grandfather’s version. It’s sexier, riskier and more daring.”
While the ahead-of-its-time theme of conscious and subconscious is paramount, the play gives its actors a lot to explore as they switch roles on and off stage. Alderfer, a familiar face on the local thespian scene but a newcomer to the Thunder River stage, sticks to the Jekyll role, but Hyde emerges out of four of his fellow actors.
Although ostensibly the serene counterpart to Hyde’s pure hedonism, that simple duality is brought into question.
“In different moments of the play, it’s hard to know where Jekyll begins and Hyde ends,” Alderfer said. “He has his public self, but within the play at various times you really get to see the struggle he has with himself.”
The adaptation plays with the idea of Hyde as an addiction — a notion that Jekyll is disinclined to accept.
“There’s a refusal to generally acknowledge and take responsibility for what you could call the false self,” Alderfer said.
Through that lens, it also takes an oblique look at how that plays into issues of status and class. Ever notice that Jekyll’s doctorate doesn’t seem to extend to Hyde?
“It really takes a look at social hypocrisy,” Simpson said. “What makes this Hyde so interesting and appealing to me is that he is not completely pure evil. In some ways, we begin to question whether Hyde is happier or Jekyll is happier.”
While the original lacks a romantic interest, most adaptations add one. In this case, it’s Willey’s Elizabeth, and it’s Hyde, not Jekyll, she falls for.
“They’re both damaged, and they’re both tough,” Willey said. “It’s interesting to walk the line of this potentially dangerous relationship that also has this very tender side that no one else would understand.”
Despite the differences, the cast made a point of tackling the source material to give a deeper perspective on their characters — particularly those outside the title roles.
“There was so much juicy material as an actor to dive in and get to know these people in the novella,” Alderfer said. “The timelessness of this piece is incredible.”
One thing it gains on stage, particularly in Thunder River’s black box, is another layer of uncertainty between reality and fantasy.
“We’re working in a world that is slightly twisted and askew,” Simpson said. “There is a very dreamlike questionable quality to everything that happens.”
The show is recommended for mature audiences and opens today at 7:30 p.m., with performances Oct. 1, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14 and 15 at Thunder River Theatre at 67 Promenade in downtown Carbondale. Tickets run $15 for students, $20 for 20 and 30 somethings and $25 for adults, with 4-for-3 season tickets available at http://www.thunderrivertheatre.com.
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