Heath Koerschgen as Mr. Hyde

With Theatre Vertigo’s production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, director Bobby Bermea retells an old tale: that of good battling evil within each of us, temptation always giving way to our core weakness of original sin.

Vertigo’s staging is intimate and minimalist, with many of the eight actors playing multiple roles. Mr. Hyde is played by six different actors, each portraying a part of his/Dr. Jekyll’s subconscious. A cane indicates which Mr. Hyde the other characters can see and hear at any given moment, and the Hydes toss the prop among themselves with fantastic synchronicity.    

The first half of the 90-minute show feels slow; the monologues drag on and there isn’t enough action. But just as the energy in the room begins to drop, Jekyll starts to slip into paranoia, Hyde emerges more and more, and the play takes on an increasingly energetic, ominous tone. 

Some of the strongest scenes here are between Hyde, played predominately by Heath Koerschgen, and his love interest, a fiery chambermaid named Elizabeth, played by Karen Wennstrom. In a twist on the Jekyll and Hyde story added by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, Elizabeth sees through Hyde’s anger and falls hopelessly in love with him. Their romantic scenes let us see a new and highly relatable side of Jekyll’s alter ego as the character struggles to overcome his fears to be with the person he loves. It helps that Wennstrom and Koerschgen, whose interactions are backed only by the sound of a pounding heartbeat, have palpable, natural chemistry. 

This is the first show Theatre Vertigo has put on at its new home, the tiny, fittingly named Shoebox Theatre. At first, the proximity of actors to audience was suffocating and intimidating, leaving the actors no room for error because the audience could see their every move. But as the play continued, the closeness became first comfortable, then exciting, with many audience members leaning in to see the actors’ shaking hands and smeared makeup, and to marvel at their complex blocking in this confined space.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Thru Nov 23
Shoebox Theatre 
Thanks to passionate performances from the entire cast, the desire of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s characters to be wholly good is apparent in every scene. But as Jekyll learns the hard way, none of us is wholly good—and denial of this fact of human nature is the path to madness.
 

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