Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
December 6, 2018
Start with the title: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde: A Comedy. Indeed, this production, based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s anything-but-amusing novella, has many funny (and even more quirky) moments beginning with the opening scene in which Jekyll and an unidentified woman watch a fumbled public execution. The particular, wacky charm of the show stems from the fine interplay between Burt Grinstead, playing Jekyll and Hyde and Anna Stromberg playing everyone else—Jekyll’s maid, Poole; a London Bobbie, Jekyll’s friend and many other characters, each identified by a single costume piece or prop. Grinstead and Stromberg also wrote the script that centers around duality and the nature of morality while Stromberg directed.
The play intertwines comedic farce and serious interludes as we watch likable, somewhat socially inept Dr. Jekyll transform into maniacal Mr. Hyde. The pace is unflinchingly swift so that eighty minutes fly past as the story of a scientific experiment gone very wrong unfolds. Grinstead changes personas by donning a top hat, lowering his voice and altering his body language so that he is highly believable in both guises. Stromberg switches props and accents fast and furiously displaying her agility even though some of the accents she adopts are a little hard to understand.
Lighting by Matt Richter and Adam Martin is appropriately sepulchral with a set piece recalling the grim, moody London of 1865. Grinstead is responsible for the excellent sound design complete with ravens’ calls. The moveable boxes and blocks serve the material well as they provide sufficient context for the audience to fill in the blanks whether a particular scene is set in a drawing room or out on the London sidewalk. This is a bare bones production with an all-black look throughout including the moveable boxes and costumes. It’s smart, funny and surprisingly likable, complete with dark humor, quick pacing and a very high level of innovation. Grinstead and Stromberg have made good use of the original work in order to provide the audience with both laughs and gasps.
This is the first effort for Blanket Fort Entertainment, founded by Grinstead and Stromberg. The world premiere of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde was presented as part of The Hollywood Fringe Festival, where it was nominated for six awards including Best Comedy, winner of the 2CentsTheatre Award for Distinctive Voices, and winner of the Soho Playhouse Fringe Encore Series Award.