Reviewed by David Walters
Billed as “The most horrifying two-person comedy you’ll ever see,” Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, now playing as part of the Fringe Encore Series at Soho Playhouse, is a wonderful, creative, joyful, fast paced, delight of a show. It’s a romp through the tale, having such fun with itself that it allows the joy of theater and storytelling to spill over the lip of the stage and flow out over the seats of the audience. Tongue in cheek at times, the production draws from the theatrical versions of the story that appeared in several corners of the world soon after the novella came out. These productions added several women characters to the original male dominated allegorical story and ran for a number of years.
(Side note: Jack the Ripper was rampaging through the city of London at this same time and the London production of Jekyll and Hyde had to close as it was so real and graphic that the star of the show, Richard Mansfield, was accused of being Jack.)
The nomenclature of “Jekyll and Hyde” that we label conflicting good and evil forces emanating from one source, immediately became a colloquialism in Western culture upon the publication of Robert Louis Stevenson’s book in 1886.
In this production at Soho Playhouse, Dr. Henry Jekyll (played with an endearing bumbling shyness and alacrity by Burt Grinstead, and who also plays the lecherous and Carreyesque Mr. Hyde) first sees his brother (The Beast of Regent Street) executed by beheading due to his evil ways and launches into a study of a possible cure for evil and our base desires. His research is rejected for funding by the father of a girl, Sarah, (Anna Stromberg, a wonderfully talented actress who plays seemingly a hundred characters in this story with delightful aplomb and swift costume changes) that he’s sweet on, but too shy to pursue. With help from some herbs imported from America, he heads down Satan’s path and concocts a potion that instead of dulling his baser natures, brings them to life in the form of Mr. Edward Hyde who cares for nothing or no one save himself. Rampaging through the doctor’s life, Hyde tramples on everyone he comes in contact with and fights desperately to never have to go back into the shell of Jekyll. Of course, it all comes to a tragic end with bodies and heartbreak in its wake.
Utilizing a shadowscape of London and several stair units that stack and open up to provide backdrop and establish location, along with a wonderful mood-setting sound design (by Burt Grinstead), the scenes shift with a dance-like smoothness that makes the show flow as steady as the Thames. Hats off to Burt and Anna for both writing, creating and directing this wonderful piece of theater that will give you a fun evening, put smile on your face and a chill up your spine.
I need to highlight The Fringe Encore Series that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is part of. It’s a great opportunity to see shows that have won awards from fringe festivals around the globe. The Fringe Encore Series assembled the “Best of the Fests” from around the world (Brighton, Edinburgh, Hollywood, Limerick, Orlando, Toronto and New York) and gave them a short run at The Soho Playhouse. The full series is running through December 16, 2018. Tickets are $39/$25 and can be purchased by visiting www.fringeencores.org. There’s a lot of really cool stuff that they’ve brought to New York, something for everyone: comedy, drama, family musicals, cabaret shows. It’s a wonderful opportunity for theater lovers to experience “the best of” from around the world. Do take a look at the many wonderful offerings and go see something magical.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Written by Burt Grinstead and Anna Stromberg, based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Directed by Anna Stromberg; Lighting by Matt Richter and Adam Martin, Sound Design by Burt Grinstead.
WITH: Burt Grinstead (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Anna Stromberg (Everyone Else)
80 minutes with no intermission.
Through December 15 at The Fringe Encore Series, Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, NYC 10013