Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella about a reputable doctor possessed by his base needs is one of literature’s original horror stories and remains an important ambassador for the genre. Kanata Theater brings this classic to the stage in all its spooky glory with a production filled with Gothic charm and darkness.
Should you see it?
For those unfamiliar with this classic horror story, Dr. Jekyll is a medical scientist intent on isolating and eventually removing the evil in man. Performing experiments on himself, he succeeds in his first goal but ends up unleashing a depraved version of himself (Mr. Edward Hyde) into the night streets instead of removing his inner demons altogether. Mr. Hyde performs all kinds of heinous acts, culminating in several murders, while Dr. Jekyll attempts to control this beast within. Complicating things further, Mr. Hyde has fallen in love with a young girl named Elizabeth who unbelievably loves him back. It’s a simple story that asks a complex question: who are we, really?
The Kanata Theater players do an excellent job of tackling this issue while presenting a creepy story that gets right under your skin. Aaron Lajeunesse is amazing as Mr. Hyde, coming across as vicious, dominating, and downright eerie. It was a treat to watch such a dark and sinister performance from such a talented young actor. His chemistry with Emily Walsh as Elizabeth was very real and profoundly disturbing, and the contrast of his excessively twisted Hyde with Nick Chronnell’s very straight portrayal of Dr. Jekyll worked very nicely.
I particularly enjoyed how other actors joined Lajeunesse as Hyde throughout the show. In some scenes, Dr. Jekyll is tormented by the voices of up to four manifestations of his darker nature, each taking a distinct approach to evil. This not only showed off the depth and breadth of madness (with specialities ranging from seduction to sadism), but also the sheer power of Mr. Hyde. When all four versions of Hyde are present, the stage feels overwhelmed with his brutality and we really get a sense of Jekyll being lost.
This and many other creative choices were so spot-on that I struggle to find anything to criticize. The lighting, set, and special effects complemented the action well by letting attention fall squarely on the actors at all times while creating a lovely Gothic world for the characters. Everything, from the costumes to the choreography, was dark, stylistically appropriate, and gorgeous. This is one of those productions where all elements are so well synchronized that you don’t notice anything but the whole effect, which was absolutely chilling. My only regret is that this show wasn’t mounted a few weeks earlier as it would have been perfect for Halloween.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to hear what you think. Did Mr. Hyde give you goosebumps or was he too maniacal to be scary? Was Elizabeth’s romance believable or did it make no sense? Who did you like more: Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!