Theatre Vertigo’s production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde gets the goosebumps engaged by posing a question about Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic villain: What if Edward Hyde weren’t hidden in some deep part of the hero’s brain, but instead presented himself constantly, his voice everywhere the hapless Dr. Jekyll turns?
The story of Jekyll and Hyde has been adapted dozens of times for stage and film, but playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s 2008 retelling moved the role of Hyde in a new direction, spreading Jekyll’s evil alter-ego out over six members of the cast.
Theatre Vertigo Director Bobby Bermea says, “It’s like a jewel spinning in the sun, and each facet hits the light and speaks.”
The production’s actors have been rehearsing in a southeast Portland storage bay. “Let’s do the first Regent’s Park scene,” says Bermea.
“I came home by Regent’s Park. I don’t know why. It was out of the way …” Karen Wennstrom begins, setting up the scene in which Dr. Jekyll meets the lovely Elizabeth Jelkes, and his interior battle with Hyde rises to a fever pitch.
“Stop!” Jekyll cries to Elizabeth, but perhaps also to his inner demon. “I want — “
“What?” Elizabeth asks.
And suddenly, a chorus of actors, previously playing roles of a variety of supporting characters, gives voice to Hyde’s monstrous appetites.
“I want to slit you in two.”
“I want to rend you on the green.”
“I want to ravish you and ravage you and leave you bleeding.”
“I —” Jekyll gasps.
“Tell me!” Elizabeth prompts him.
“I want to see you,” Jekyll and one of the Hydes reply, their voices entwining in a tortured duet. “I don’t know how to see you but not be seen.”
“I think it speaks to the infinite varieties that exist within each of us,” says Tom Mounsey, one of the six actors playing the role of Hyde. “When Dr. Jekyll attempts to split out the quote-unquote ‘evil’ side of himself, what he’s really doing is creating a whole person who has a multitude of aspects.”
As for the new dimensions the treatment unlocks in a prototypical villain, Mounsey adds, “Evil is, of course, a subjective word.”
Another actor in Vertigo’s chorus of Hydes, Brooke Calgango, observes, “Each of the Hydes has his own spin and take on it and explores a lot of taboo emotions, whether it’s more on the evil side — passion, lust, mischief — all that.”
Theatre Vertigo’s production of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde runs through November 23, 2013.
To hear the full interview from State of Wonder, click on the audio link at the top of this article. State of Wonder airs Saturdays at noon on OPB Radio.