Stoneham’s ‘Jekyll’ a treat for theater-goers

Benjamin Evett as Jekyll in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Photo: David Costa

Benjamin Evett as Jekyll in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Photo: David Costa

STONEHAM — On a recent Saturday afternoon, costumed trick or treaters wandered Stoneham Center garnering treats from businesses, including the Stoneham Theatre.
It turns out the real treat was inside the theater. Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,“ a psychological thriller of the first order, is at the Stoneham Theatre through Nov. 10.
Cleverly and convincingly staged, with excellent ensemble acting, it is a skilled, scary reboot of the iconic work by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Benjamin Evett, surely on every critic’s short list of the finest Boston-based actors, makes his Stoneham Theatre debut as the tortured 19th century London doctor Henry Jekyll, who conducts dangerous experiments on himself in a bid to gain knowledge of the human psyche.
Jekyll’s experiments are park of his exploration of the human psyche and his theory that humans have two streams of consciousness: one on the surface, one subterranean.

(l to r) Cheryl McMahon*, Alexander Platt*, Nick Sulfaro, and Dale Place* in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

(l to r) Cheryl McMahon*, Alexander Platt*, Nick Sulfaro, and Dale Place* in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Photo: David Costa

Evett captures the humanity and decency of a man whose intentions are ever-noble but whose curiosity and intellect lead him to ever darker places.
The production depends largely on the versatility of its cast playing multiple roles — but almost all of whom will be called on at some point to play Mr. Edward Hyde, the notorious thug with the walking stick who has a puzzling relationship with Jekyll.
Dale Place is Jekyll’s lawyer and friend Gabriel Utterson, who first finds evidence of the relationship and seeks reasons for it, especially  Jekyll’s decision to make Hyde the benefactor of his will.
Alexander Platt plays Jekyll’s Scottish colleague and friend Dr. H.K. Lanyon, who does his best to support his friend through the turmoil he’s going through,
Nick Sulfaro is Poole, Jekyll’s harried and worried servant who finds himself increasingly perplexed by behaviors he finds alarming and puzzling.
Elizabeth Jelkes (Esme Allen)  witnesses the cruelty of Hyde, but till finds herself strangely attracted to him.
Cheryl McMahon successfully disappears into several male characters, including Sir Danvers Carew, whose unethical, arrogant behavior involving the dissection of a streetwalker who was a victim of Hyde’s angers Jekyll, and sets the stage for his later demise.
The most chilling scenes come when Evett comes to realize he has lost control of his alter ego, and the evil deeds he is committing are a result of his experiment gone wrong.
Wracked by guilt he vows to get rid of the potion that allows Hyde to emerge.
But he knows that by getting rid of Hyde, he risks not being able to blame the crimes that have been occurring on him. “I am your protection now,” says Hyde to Jekyll. You can’t get rid of me.”
Again, different actors taking turns playing Hyde sounds complicated, but it works effectively and seamlessly. The idea: There is a little of Edward Hyde in all of us, and we all have assorted personalities that we slip into — or perhaps descend into — from time to time.
Superb lighting design by Jeff Adelberg has the players working in sinister shadows and the sound design by Nathan Leigh evokes the proper mood. The minmalist set by David Towlun includes a door through which much of the action will pass and moveable props which will serve to move the action around.
Director Caitlin Lowans keeps it all flowing smoothly towards a fever pitch. Come, be scared and entertained at the same time.
The Stoneham Theatre production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Based on the novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. Directed by Caitlin Lowans. At the Stoneham Theatre through Nov. 10. http://www.stonehamtheatre.org.

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