“Well, to put it as simply as I can. Good and evil are so close as to be chained together in the soul. Man isn't truly one, but two,” Dr. Jekyll says in the 1941 film based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
“Now what if we could break that chain separate those two selves, to free the good in man, and let it go on to its higher destiny... to segregate the bad in man and let it destroy itself in its own degradation!”Get Savannah arts and culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our Dine Savannah and Do update newsletters
Over the next few weekends, the Tybee Arts Association will be converting the Tybee Post Theatre into a replica of mid-nineteenth century Victorian England to present a more recent adaptation of Stevenson's famed piece of literature, Jekyll and Hyde. This particular adaptation, written in 2008 by notable playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, explores the depths and complexities of both human behavior and character.
“It’s not just about good and evil,” said the play’s director Tony Marchetti-Knarr, who is simultaneously cast as Dr. Jekyll. “It’s a question of what is the nature of mankind, and how are these forces at play within us? Stevenson wrote this story in the 1800s in Victorian England when there were a lot more social norms but I don’t think that will ever not be a valid human concern. The original story Stevenson was writing was truly about breaking out of societal norms and I think Hatcher took that even further to adapt the language and sensibility of the play to the type of topics he would explore in this story.”
Knarr also attributes the play's popularity to its use of four separate actors who all play the part of the stories dynamic heel and villain, Mr. Hyde. “I think what draws people to this version is that 4 of the actors in the cast are taking on multiple characters. There’s four versions of Mr. Hyde which means each actor takes on two to five roles each, which lends itself to a really stylized telling of this story and gives us a lot of options to play with.”
The production's press release echoes the excitement over multiple roles. “Vinnie King, Renee’ DeRossett and Virgil Moore all play multiple roles including Mr. Hyde; sometimes all on stage at the same time! They hound Jekyll, played by Marchetti-Knarr, and lure in Elizabeth Jelkes, played by Monica Lee Floyd, to their world of lust, degradation, and murder.”
Knarr emphasized how Hatcher was able to modernize this classic tale. “It’s a very fast-moving play. The first act has 19 scenes, and we move through all of them really fast, so the setting is pretty sparse. Moving doors are an ongoing theme so we have a few of those and a red door symbolizing the threshold characters cross to delve into what Mr. Hyde represents. What I found interesting in particular in this adaptation was that we not only see a search for humanity, not just in Dr. Jekyll but also in Mr. Hyde. We get to look at him through the eyes of Elizabeth, who falls in love with this man despite all of his terrible traits and even Mr. Hyde can’t understand it.”
“Hatcher really used this play to talk about the duality of humankind,” said Knarr, “Jekyll is searching for a way to isolate his dark impulses through experimentation. He tries to use science to get rid of the impulses, but he just brings them out more, before finally coming to understand that you can’t fully get rid of them. They’re a part of human nature."