Review: The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll (The Mammals)

  
  

Mammals’ dream journal struggles to maintain balance

  
  

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The Mammals present
   
The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll
  
Written by Jason Adams, Scott Barsotti, Randall Colburn, Bob Fisher,
Reina Hardy, Warwick Johnson and Jeremy Menekseoglu
Directed by
Bob Fisher
at
Zoo Studio, 4001 N. Ravenswood Ste B-1 (map)
through April 2  |  tickets: $20  | 
more info

Reviewed by by Barry Eitel

In their The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll, The Mammals are quick to dismiss Robert Louis Stevenson, decrying his novel as a “penny dreadful.” Instead, at the onset of the play, our guide Professor Oliver Mastodon Peale says that we are about to get a taste of the real story. He claims that next to the titular doctor’s eviscerated body laid a book, half written in neat cursive, half written in near-illegible handwriting. This adaptation, as we’re led to believe, is actually a dramatization of that story. It’s a bold move; one that breathes life into the Victorian-era tale.

Gabe Garza as Hyde - Dream Journal of Doctor Jeckyll - The MammalsKnown for their exploration of the horrific and grotesque, Dr. Jekyll and his alter-ego Mr. Hyde provide ample fodder for the Mammals. However, the play can never decide whether it is a gothic descent into hell or a smartly-done spoof. In the end, the show becomes a victim of taking itself too seriously.

In lieu of actors, claims Peale (Jason Adams wrapped in a robe and marvelously fake moustache), he has hired sleepwalkers. We watch as Jekyll (Scott Barsotti) battles, comforts, and eventually succumbs to Hyde (Gabe Garza). Basically, it’s a story dwelling on the well-explored turf of Apollonian versus Dionysian. The Mammals make very clear that Jekyll is a man of science while Hyde concerns himself with art and magic (usually through harming cats). We watch as Jekyll, through Hyde, tears into those around him and, finally, into himself.

The play was written by committee, with contributions by Jason Adams, Scott Barsotti, Randall Colburn, Bob Fisher, Reina Hardy, Warwick Johnson, and Jeremy Menekseoglu (whew). It works best when Jekyll and Hyde play off each other like some sort of bipolar comedy duo. The most memorable scene is when the boorish Hyde becomes Jekyll’s wingman, giving him terrible advice for wooing Eve (Sarah Scanlon).

The writers seem to have taken for granted that we all know how the story ends, and the play clumsily spirals into the finale without much concrete motivation. The last couple of scenes, although striking, don’t really connect into a fully-realized arc. The framing device, although funny, doesn’t help things. For some reason, a pair of Siamese twins (Ashlee Edgemon and Anne Marie Boyer, who are not real conjoined twins) do what they can to derail Peale’s demonstration. It also seems like flute-wielding demons are trying to take over the show? Whatever they’re up to, the soundtrack they provide is eerily excellent.

Gabe Garza as Hyde, Sarah Scanlon as Eve, in The Mammals' original production of 'The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll', now playing at Zoo Studio.I take issue with the writers’ casual remarks about pedophilia and rape. Some of Hyde’s comments seem like cheap shots for shock value. The play’s moments of high tension are usually overblown, like when Scanlon and Garza scream at each other as they discuss the nature of screams. Again, it’s the comedy that should’ve been the star—the funniest moments can be subversive yet push the story forward. While not one of the smartest points of the show, Garza rolling around on the floor after a punch to the groin and groaning “My balls!” is a highlight.

Either way, the cast fully commits to the material, whether they’re playing a short tune on the dulcimer or screaming at the audience. And some fascinating moments are pulled out of the general chaos. In the last few scenes, a tired Peale goes into a beautifully metatheatrical monologue about the nature of art. John Ross Wilson’s cabinet-o-curios set provides a feast for the eyes, with plenty of drawers and doors for the cast to open and close. Like a dream, a lot of Dream Journal doesn’t quite make sense, but it definitely keeps your interest. Claiming ‘but that’s the point!’ seems a lazy argument to me, but it works well enough to keep this massive collaboration hammering along.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

Gabe Garza as Hyde, in The Mammals' 'The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll'

The Dream Journal of Doctor Jekyll continues through April 2nd at Zoo Studio, 4001 N. Ravenswood #B1, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 10pm.  BYOB! Tickets are $20, and reservations can be made by calling  866-593-4614.

  
  

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REVIEW: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Theatre-Hikes)

Exploring good and evil in the great outdoors

 

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Theatre-Hikes presents
   
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
   
Written/Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher
Based on novella by
Robert Louis Stevenson
Directed by
Bradley Baker
at
Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois 53, Lisle (map)
through October 31  |  tickets: $13-$19   |  more info

Reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, is based on the original novella “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Both the play and the original work explore the fine lines between good and evil and what those characteristics can do to a man.

The Morton Arboretum sets the scene for the Theatre-Hikes production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The vast outdoor space leaves plenty of room for the actor’s personalities to shine through. With the leaves of the trees changing and the wind Theatre-Hikes - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde014 rustling through the fallen leaves, there is a unique and apt ambience that surrounds both the actors and the audience. Although it was a little chilly, once the action began it no longer seemed to matter.

Jekyll/Hyde opens on the main characters finding Dr. Jekyll unconscious which leads to flash backs exposing the chain of events leading to Jekyll’s current state. The story unfolds through journal entries, police reports, notes and other writings from the main characters. To begin, two of Jekyll’s friends, Richard Enfield (Zach Bloomfield) and Gabriel Utterson (James Stanton) discuss a peculiar occurrence witnessed and how the man involved is related to Jekyll. The play opens rather strongly, setting a good tone for the rest of the performance. Energy levels are high and stay high throughout the two-hour run of the show. It’s also clear that the actor’s work with their dialect coach, Allison Reinke, has paid off because their accents effortlessly transport the audience back to London in 1883.

The two men meet with Dr. Jekyll (Dan Toot) and discuss the event only to find out the man involved; Mr. Hyde (played at various times by James Stanton, Zach Bloomfield, Geoff Crump and Ellenkate Finley) is an acquaintance of Jekyll. Toot offers up a calm demeanor with Dr. Jekyll and creates an authentic presence on stage. He gives off a confident and intellectual air, as one expects from a doctor.

The character of Mr. Hyde, although played by aforementioned actors throughout the course of the play, is mainly played by Geoff Crump. Crump also does the best job of portraying the terrifying and menacing Mr. Hyde. It’s never quite clear why four actors have been cast to play this one character, for although the others did a fine job, in the end they pull focus from Crump, who proves to be the most devilish and mysterious of them all.

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Continuing on, the play continues to tell the parallel stories of Jekyll and Hyde. Mr. Hyde meets a woman, Elizabeth Jelkes, (Amanda Presz) and they fall in love. Despite all the bad he has done and that he inherently is, she loves him. However, their first meeting is a frightful one when Hyde pulls a knife on her. Unfortunately, the feelings of fear and raw emotion could have be taken further in the beginning – it doesn’t feel like a genuine fear or evil. That being said, as the show progresses, Presz and Crump get in synch with their characters, creating a much more realistic portraits; pulling the audience into the action.

Theatre-Hikes - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde028As we learn more about the dichotomies between Jekyll and Hyde, it becomes increasingly captivating. All the actors do a terrific job of keeping the audience in the  moment.  Thus, when a scene ends and the audience must move to the next scene location (the hike part of Theatre-Hikes), there’s a moment a surprise at being taken out of the action on stage. Once settled, the actors are able to jump right back in and immediately the audience is, once again, lost in this fantasy world.

Bloomfield, who plays several parts throughout (Sir Danvers Carew, Richard Enfield, O.F. Sanderson, Inspector, Hyde 2) does a wonderful job of switching between them. The characters come off different and unique, which is important. As Jekyll, Enfield, Utterson Toot, Bloomfield and Stanton have good stage chemistry, and it’s definitely believable that they are old friends or colleagues.

As Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde concludes with its final scenes, Crump as Hyde (3) really comes into his element. He pushes his character to its limits, creating depth and a large character arch, making for an overall enjoyable production.  What better way is there to see a top-notch performance AND get a workout all at the same time?!!

   
   
Rating: ★★★
   
   

Theatre-Hikes - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde021Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde plays at the Morton Arboretum through October 31. Tickets are $13 to $19 and can be purchased through the Theatre-Hikes website.

       
     

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REVIEW: The Ghosts of Treasure Island (Adventure Stage)

Rockin’ adaptation reveres original pirate tale

 

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Adventure Stage Chicago presents
 
The Ghosts of Treasure Island
 
script by Eric Schmiedl
Music/lyrics by Captain Bogg and Salty
directed by Amanda Delheimer
at the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble (map)
through May 20th | tickets: $12-$17 | more info

reviewed by Aggie Hewitt

Childhood is an existential crisis. Little ones ask their parents "why?" after any conceivable statement, sure that adults are omniscient rulers, who hold in their minds the secrets of life’s mysteries. The grown-ups, unable to answer questions  like, "why does a car go? Not how, but why?" end up distracting kiddies with rules, especially rules about how rude and annoying it is to ask unanswerable questions. Our rules say, "be good, and treasure-island1good things will happen to you." Childhood lore tends to reflect and uphold these laws, good conquers, evil is defeated, and happiness reigns. Young adult novels, plays and movies rarely venture into areas of ambiguous morality, but those that do are rewarded with critical acclaim, and sometimes the promise of timelessness; such is the case with Robert Louis Stevenson‘s 1881 Treasure Island. This is a tale that truly respects the emotional intelligence of children, and Adventure Stage Chicago‘s theatrical adaption of The Ghosts of Treasure Island doesn’t shy away from that.

From the opening scenes of this thrilling play, the audience is confronted with themes of familial loyalty, regrets of old age and the beckoning call to youth to "make your mark" on the world. This is a show that – to steal Del Close‘s famous phrase – plays to the top of it’s intelligence. From the creative set designed by Chelsea Warren, which includes a beam which can be raised to transform a flat wooden floor into a pirate ship, to the artful adaptation by playwright Eric Schmiedl, who plays hard on the book’s themes of self-discovery and moral ambiguity.

One of the most striking parts of the play is the performance of Glenn Stanton as the depressive alcoholic pirate Billy Bones, whose life of regret, and pathetic death serve as the inciting incident of this play. He is actually scary as the forlorn pirate, whose drunken state gives way to demented fantasies and violent, erratic behavior. Jim Hawkins, played here by youthful Kroydell Galima, should have been played by an actual teenager, instead of an adult actor who can play young. However, Galima is committed, intelligent and earnestly in touch with the emotional state of a child.

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Punctuating scenes and major emotional shifts in this play is the pirate band Captain Bogg and Salty, who according to the program worked closely with the playwright in creating the adaptation. The music is dark and intense, and the lyrics are poetic. The band transforms a turn of the last century tale into a ballad rock musical, whose emotional intensity matches the complicated 129-year old story.

Ghosts of Treasure Island is a rocking adaptation that reveres the original tale. A perfect blend of childhood angst and modern day craft have made a near perfect children’s play. There are short comings, however. The play, which runs over an hour and a half may be a bit long for some young audiences. Additionally, this play has the potential to be too scary. It holds children to a high level, so make sure the little guys and girls you bring on board are up for an intellectual challenge and can handle the fear factor. In terms of raising the stakes of children’s theater, however, The Ghosts of Treasure Island truly hits the mark.

 
Rating: ★★★

Recommended for ages 9 and up (4th thru 8th grades).

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  • April 24 (Performance is part of ASC’s Spring Fling: A Pirate Party)
  • May 1 (Behind the Scenes Day – Get a VIP tour after the show)
  • Special Evening Performance: Friday May 7th at 7:00 p.m.
  • May 8 (Picture with a Pirate Day – Take photos with the cast)

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Review: Lifeline Theatre’s “Treasure Island”

 Lifeline creates an all-hands-on-deck winner

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Lifeline Theatre presents:

Treasure Island
by Robert Louis Stevenson
adapted by John Hildreth
directed by Robert Kauzlaric
through November 1st (buy tickets)

reviewed by Catey Sullivan

“There are two kinds of men in the world, ” the impeccably honest innkeeper Mr. Hawkins impresses upon his impressionable young son Jim early on in Treasure Island. “There are decent, God-fearing men who honor God, King and Country.” And here, the good father stops in a fraught pause worthy of Pinter before darkly concluding: “And pirates.”

The moment loses much of its impact on the page, but on stage it captures the marvelous duality of John Hildreth’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s coming-of-age-with-pirates classic. On the one hand, this is a violent and sobering story thick with casual, brutal killing and unbridled greed. On the other hand, it’s rich with wry humor, even if that humor is often as black as Blackbeard’s beard.

Treasure_Island1 Directed by Robert Kauzlaric, Treasure Island is a complex adventure that skimps on neither bloodshed nor labyrinthine plot details. Although older children may well find the production thrilling, this is not children’s theater – the stabbings, shootings, stranglings and other assorted murderous goings-on are staged with nightmarish impact. (An early bloodletting scene that looks wincingly real turns out to be only the amuse bouche of the evening.) Moreover, Stevenson’s story sometimes seems to have as many threads as the massive ship’s rigging that stretches in great, ropey arms from stage floor to flyspace. As Jim Hawkins’ allegiances shift from pirates to decent men and back again, you’ll be forgiven if you start to feel that you’re watching an elaborate sort of ping-pong game between scurvy rapscallions and proper British gentlemen. The primary flaw in Hildreth’s adaptation is that characters sometimes get lost amid the plot’s complexities. Amid flashbacks, cannon blasts, and hordes of seamen both jolly and evil, it’s not hard to lose track of who’s who among treasure seekers.

The glorious exception – and lynchpin of this able-bodied adventure – is Sean Sinitski. If there’s a Chicago actor better suited to play the uni-ped antihero Long John Silver, well, we’ll eat a fried parrot stuffed with counterfeit doubloons and basted with rancid rum for Sunday dinner. Young Master Hawkins (Warren Weber, in a solid, if somewhat distant performance) might be the moral center of the story, but Sinitski’s Long John is its moral compass. And a fascinating, conflicted compass he is indeed. Stumping along on prosthetic designer David Rende’s marvelously realized peg leg, Sinitski is a father figure of surprising and unconventional virtue. There is indeed honor among thieves, or pirates as the case may be, as decent men and scalliwags alike enlist Jim’s help in recovering the long lost treasure of the late, unlamented Captain Flint.

The supporting cast is an exemplary ensemble. Kauzlaric accomplishes that signature Lifeline feat of making 10 actors seem like dozens, filling the two hours stage traffic with an epic array of buccaneering rascals and proper Brits. Chief among equals: Christopher Walsh as the rum-and-rickets-infused Billy Bones, a rogue whose “thundering apoplexy” proves the catalyst for the story’s rollicking treasure hunt. Also notable is John Ferrick’s Squire Trelawney, an imperious fusspot who manages to keep his wig perfectly powdered even while under siege in the torrid climes of a tropical isle. Chris Hainsworth’s villainous Israel Hands is a fine, blackhearted reprobate while Patrick Blashill’s Dr. Livesey is a suitably multi-layered good guy foil to Sinitski’s oceanic outlaw. Sea chanteys play a lively part in creating the on-stage community, and for that, Andy Hansen’s original music and sound design should be applauded.

Set designer Alan Donahue (with the atmospheric assistance of Kevin D. Gawley’s lighting design) outdoes himself, creating a wonderfully flexible world of ropes and planks and pulleys that easily shifts from ship to shore. As for all the brawling inherent to any story involving pirates, fight director Geoff Coates creates all-hands-on-deck fisticuffs of skull-thumping veracity.

In all, it’s been a cracking fine year for Robert Louis Stevenson: Lifeline’s Treasure Island is the second world premiere adaptation of the tale this season. (A musical version, penned by former Chicagoans Curt Dale Clark and his husband Marc Robin, debuted at Indianapolis’ Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre in April.) The book can be a tough read – Stevenson’s speech patterns might not flow so easily to those used to the 21st century vernacular. A trip to Lifeline will make it abundantly clear just why the story is a classic.

Rating: «««½

Treasure Island continues through Nov. 1 at Lifeline Theatre, 6901 Glenwood. Tickets are $30, $25 seniors, $15 students and rush tickets. For more information, call 773/761-4477 or go to www.lifelinetheatre.com

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Northlight Theatre announces 2008/09 season

 

Northlight  Theatre 2008/09 Season

 

Doctor Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher

Based on the novella by Robert Louis Stevenson

Directed by Jessica Thebus

What happened the night that Henry Jekyll died? Against the backdrop of Victorian London, the respected doctor has begun to display alarmingly erratic behavior toward his friends.  At the wsame time, a mysterious figure haunts the city’s streets under the cloak of the London fog.  This fiendishly clever and theatrically innovative new adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale is a smart, psychological thriller that delights in revealing the many faces of Edward Hyde.

September 17 – October 26, 2008

 

 

Grey Gardens

Book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie

Directed by BJ Jones

Musical direction by Doug Peck

Rub elbows with Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter “Little Edie,” – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ most scandalous relatives!  Once the highest of high society, the two have become East Hampton’s most notorious recluses, living in a dilapidated 28-room mansion with 51 cats for company.  Set in two eras – 1941 when the celebrated estate was the picture of wealth and sophistication, and 1973 after it had been reduced to squalor – Grey Gardens is a brilliant and heartbreaking look at two indomitable women.

November 12 – December 21, 2008

 

 

Po Boy Tango

By Kenneth Lin

Translated by Martin Crimp

Directed by Chay Yew

A celebration of the human spirit and the joy of cooking, Po Boy Tango tells the story of Richie Po, a Chinese immigrant who turns to his estranged friend Gloria to help him recreate his mother’s “Great Banquet.”  Despite the challenges of shark fin soup, duck po boy sandwiches and underlying cultural tensions, Richie and Gloria find common ground through their shared humor and the blending of traditional Taiwanese cuisine and African American “Soul Food.”  Helped by lessons from Po Moma’s television cooking show, the two discover a deeper understanding of food, culture and the nature of friendship.

January 7   February 15, 2009

 

 

Mauritius

By Theresa Rebeck

Directed by Dexter Bullard

The stakes are high when half-sisters inherit a book of rare stamps that may include the “crown jewel” of the stamp-collection world.  The battle for possession takes a dangerous turn when three rival collectors enter the sisters’ world, willing to go to any lengths to stake their claim on the find.  Combining the best aspects of Hitchcock, Chandler and Mamet, “Mauritius” is a gripping blend of sharp comedy and heart-pounding drama that simmers with constant surprise.

February 25 – April 5, 2009

 

 

The Lieutenant of Inishmore

By Martin McDonagh

Directed by BJ Jones

“Wee Thomas” the cat has been killed.  What’s worse, he was the beloved pet of Padraic – a ruthless Irish hitman who considers the IRA “too soft.”  As the folks back home fight over who has to break the bad news, the violence escalates – recalling Shakespeare and Quentin Tarantino at their bloody best.  A few murders, several dismemberments and a smattering of cow mutilations later, all is finally right with the world again.  Or is it?  In this wickedly funny black comedy from the author of “The Cripple of Inishmaan”, “A Skull in Connemara” and the recent film “In Bruges”, McDonagh considers the implications of outrageous reactions to small misunderstandings.

April 29   June 7, 2009

 

For more information, call 847-673-6300, or go to www.northlight.org