'Jekyll and Hyde' Disturbs and Delights
Cast creates a world of malevolence with extraordinary performances
Published: Monday, January 24, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Purportedly, the difference between humans and animals is our sense of morality and self-restraint. However, who can say at what point instinct takes over, and whether these most basic urges have any redeeming factors that modern society can appreciate? Demonstrating the chilling descent of a respected physician of London society to a depraved, instinct-driven member of the city's underbelly, Boston College Theatre Department's production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a darkly fascinating and disturbing look at what defines humanity and who lives a better life – the man who obeys his passions or his conscience.
Although most know the plot of Robert Louis Stevenson's famous novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in his program note, director Nicholas Foster, A&S `11, urges the audience to experience the play with the mindset of those first readers who did not know that Jekyll and Hyde were two sides of one character. Reading the novella in its original manuscript, only the most attentive would realize that the demonic Edward Hyde is the "second stream" of consciousness of Dr. Jekyll, who eloquently describes his own descent into primal passion. This shift of mindset is aided by Foster's unique take on Mr. Hyde's character, choosing to employ all other actors except Dr. Jekyll himself (Bryan Bernfeld, A&S`11) and the play's love interest, Elizabeth Jelkes, played by Katerina Baruffi, A&S`11, as the devilish Mr. Hyde. This choice speaks to the talent of the crew as their transformations, sometimes midstage, are flawless and disturbing, as the audience sees how easy it is to become a ‘monster,' by definition of London's upper class of the period.
These multiple Hydes emerge simultaneously on the play, echoing Hyde's lines from each corner before descending on the main stage in the seduction of Miss Jelkes. In the culminating moment of this scene, the female version of Mr. Hyde, played by Lisa Boccuzzi, A&S `11, leads Baruffi offstage, and one immediately thinks of Black Swan's hypersexuality, as this play is equally passionate and questions at what point a person can even realize that they have succumbed to madness.
Although the entire cast performed at a professional level and deserves the standing ovations given at every sold out performance, Zachary Desmond, A&S'12, was a particular standout in both Dr. H.K. Lanyon and the most frequent Mr. Hyde. In Laynon, Desmond created humorous relief and cultivated an incredibly believable Scottish accent. Alternately, as Edward Hyde, Desmond not only terrifies the audience, but also engenders sympathy and some compassion as he breaks the typical Mr. Hyde character mold – one-dimensional and pure evil – to create a fanatical man who cannot control his worst desires, but who also cannot suppress his better ones, like his love for Elizabeth Jelkes.
Spirited and effusive, Baruffi makes Elizabeth a force to be reckoned with, as she is perhaps the only character who truly understands Hyde, including himself or Dr. Jekyll. As a senior, Baruffi's expertise and experience show through in taking on this role. This seniority of talent is also noticeable in Theodore Moller, A&S`11, and Bryan Bernfeld, A&S`11, as they give tremendous performances, particularly in the scenes explaining Dr. Jekyll's theory of the mind. Although they stop to have scientific discussions in the middle of a suspenseful play, Bernfeld and Moller prevent this pace change from deadening the crucial moment, which explains Jekyll's dramatic transformation of psyche.
Taking on the most numerous roles, Cameron Cronin, LSOE`12, also transitions convincingly between characters who, if misplayed, could confuse the plot. Instead, Cronin gives definition to each of his changes, never slipping up in their different characterizations.
However, the beginning of this show starts off a bit more confusing than it should, with so many character switches and complex ideas, mostly due to lines that could not be heard over set changes. Using Spartan props to creatively set up many different scenes, the set was interesting and well done. Several times the cast started the next scene while either music was playing or the metal grates hanging from the ceiling were being moved. This, along with some thick accents, made opening lines very easy – and frustrating – to miss, since the plot is so intricate, and those first moments always told whose journal, notes, or interview was being relayed.
The only other problem with the play is that it is playing for only one weekend. Completely sold out by the start of Thursday night's performance, this show merits another weekend for everyone to experience it.
Regardless, by the end of the play, the audience was at full attention, waiting for the resolution to the petrifying moment that began the play as a teaser. When Elizabeth screams once more, lying draped over a body as the rest of the cast comes hurtling in, the entire scope of the play shifts again. Although it is Jekyll's sanity that comes into question for the majority of the play, the ending completely alters one's perception as Edward Hyde is given the last word, speaking of a dream he is glad is not reality, leaving the audience wondering what was real, and what was fiction in this sinister situation.