Indiana Repertory Theatre presents engaging “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

There’s something about the thought of watching a classic that makes everyone snore. It’s not that the classics are boring; they have been loved for years.

But people are always up for seeing something new, something exciting. In it’s opening production this season, the Indiana Repertory Theatre manages to give the audience the classic story of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in a way that stays true to the tale people know while also giving us a different way to look at it.

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” it turns out to be a huge surprise that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the same person.  After many film and other adaptations over the years, this is common knowledge even without ever having read Stevenson’s story. So the question going into a classic-book-turned-play is: how are they going to present this surprise if everyone already knows what’s going to happen?

Jeffery Hatcher’s adaption makes it clear from the very beginning that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. Scene after scene is drenched with dramatic irony that gives a comedic twist to this once-horrendous thriller.

That’s not to say the play loses all the darkness of the original story. It certainly doesn’t. In face, there is something even more sinister about being able to laugh at murder, lies and madness. In the program, the director says everyone has a bit of darkness inside.

The set consists of many mirrors, which, oddly enough, the actors never really look into. Could it be a hint for the audience to look into the mirrors themselves? Does everyone really have a Hyde-like side?

This question presents a theme that runs throughout the production and gives the play strength in parts that would otherwise seem weak.

The costuming gives great mystery and even a toxic feel to actors when they play Hyde. Hats are used very cleverly to keep characters in line for the audience and to maintain the narrative flow of the play

Ryan Artzberger gave a solid performance as a much less good-natured Jekyll than previous portrayals of the doctor. The rest of the cast took turns being Hyde—sometimes all at once—but no one could match the charisma of the lead Hyde, played by Kevin Cox. Together, the Hydes played the many voices in Jekyll’s head, voices which are both friends and enemies.

While at times the many Hydes added a lot to the story and overall direction, their scenes felt flat and false at times. Specifically, the scene in which Hyde and Jekyll do a choreographed mirroring of each other mid-transformation felt overly forced for such a sporadic dual personality.

Overall, the production brings not only the great scenography and costuming that is expected of the IRT, but also a new depth that was not in its performance of “Dracula” last year. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is not just about murder, blood or special effects: it is about looking at all sides of a person and giving the audience a chance to define their own lines of good and evil.

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