It’s a tale as old as time, the battle and balance between good versus evil that pits temptation against weakness, and it takes center stage in Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the Kanata Theatre.
The play is a reworking of the 1886 novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, widely known as a classic and, although you may not have read it yourself, you’ve likely come across some form of it in an episode of Looney Tunes or Arthur.
In Hatcher’s version, the gothic drama is pieced together by a series of diary entries from the various characters – all of which are played by five actors. Together the story of one man’s internal struggle comes to light and unfolds on stage.
In his laboratory, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Nick Chronnell) created a mystical formula that unleashed his brutish alter ego – a carnal creature of a man that takes the form of Mr. Edward Hyde (primarily played by Aaron Lajeunesse). Dr. Jekyll, as per his own comparison, has become somewhat of an addict to the release his amoral doppelganger provides.
In the end, Dr. Jekyll is the cause of his own demise.
My favourite part of the play has to be the opening scene as it captures the audience (myself included) in its hauntingly mesmerizing rhythm. The small cast waltzed out onto a dimly lit stage one by one to an eerie instrumental piece – this is where Wendy Wagner’s directorial genius truly shines. It’s where the audience got their first glimpse into the abnormal love triangle between Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde and Elizabeth Jelkes (Emily Walsh) as she careened her way across the stage and into their lives.
Hatcher’s rendition of the novella calls for numerous actors to share the role of Mr. Hyde – in this particular play, that meant four performers (Paul Behncke, Tracey Nash, Gordon Walls, and Lajeunesse) were allocated to the role, each portraying a part of Hyde’s twisted subconscious.
At first, it was difficult to distinguish as the small cast was constantly jumping in and out of different characters. Once it became apparent that the entire play was a series of changeovers between the actors, it became second nature and not as distracting.
Lajeunesse impeccably transitioned into his various roles but his most noteworthy was Hyde. It wasn’t until the second act that I really acknowledged the fact he was appearing on stage as four other characters.
His chemistry with Walsh was electric. Their romance allowed the audience to see how the boundaries that originally defined Hyde from Jekyll began to blur as their lives became unwillingly intertwined.
The real ovation in my opinion goes to Chronnell for his performance of Dr. Jekyll. He was the only actor that didn’t shuffle amongst various roles but he displayed the most versatility as a performer. The audience watched as he struggled between the two sides of himself, not wanting to let one reign over the other. He effortlessly portrayed a man slowly slipping into a state of paranoia, spiralling out of control for every last bit of freedom he could squeeze out of himself – out of Hyde.
I feel that this last line given by Lajeunesse just before the curtains closed sums up the twisted tale just right. Hyde proclaims: “I had the strangest dream. I dreamt I was a man named Henry Jekyll. Thank God I woke up in time to realize I was not him.”
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde continues to run from November 11 – 15 at Kanata Theatre (1 Ron Maslin Way). Curtains at 8pm, tickets are $20 and can be purchased in advance by phone (613-831-4435) or online.