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Theater review: 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' at Theatre 40

October 22, 2009 |  3:30 pm

Hyde.300 Virginia Woolf may have disapproved, but Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story of split personality, “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” says as much about modern psychology as a shelf full of Freud. Now running at Theatre 40, Jeffrey Hatcher’s expressionistic stage adaptation of the 1886 novella gets a bold — occasionally blunt — treatment by director and designer Jeff G. Rack. Using little more than smoke, a two-way mirror and a revolving upstage door, he creates a fun house ride through a haunted psyche.
“Jekyll” plays in a Victorian London hooked on the “C.S.I.” of its day, namely public dissections of working-class folk who died in grisly ways. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Darren Tyler Morgan), a crusader against such practices, attempts to isolate the beast in man’s nature in order to cure it. Naturally, his plan goes horribly wrong, and soon the good doctor is transforming nightly into the rageful Mr. Hyde (primarily played by Scott Roberts), given to beating men into pulps and carving up prostitutes.

Hatcher’s central conceit has the entire ensemble taking on the role of Hyde at different times, underscoring Stevenson’s point that the dark figure represents the aggressive impulse in us all. Theatrically it’s an effective take, supported here by David Marling’s snarling sound design and Ellen Monocroussos’ spooky lighting.  Some performances and transitions are awkward, but the gripping story keeps you hooked: “Jekyll” is pulp pleasure for the Halloween season.

— Charlotte Stoudt
“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Theatre 40, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. theater40org.Ends Nov. 8. $23-$25. Contact: (310) 364-0535. Running time: 2 hours.

Photo: Darren Tyler Morgan. Photo credit: Ed Krieger