Monday, December 24, 2018

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

Cooper Bates Photography
Burt Grinstead and Anna Stromberg wore many hats during Blanket Fort Entertainment’s New York premiere of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde from Dec. 6-16 at the Soho Playhouse as part of the Fringe Encore Series, including writer (Grinstead and Stromberg), director (Stromberg) and actors (Grinstead and Stromberg).

Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novella, this version sought to insert moments of laughter into the traditional story, which takes place in London around the 1860s where Dr. Jekyll explores the academic question of “what is the nature of morality” after his brother is executed as a serial killer. Grinstead tackled the dual role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde admirably.

Especially well done were the transformation scenes where his body changed dramatically from one character to the next. With a jerk of his foot and the stretching of his hands, Mr. Hyde appeared - even as Grinstead simply changed the sets in shadow, an edge of malevolence in each deliberate movement.

The clever set, in interlocking sections, opened to reveal bookshelves, cabinets - even a fireplace of sorts - was manipulated in a swirl of careful choreography. When Mr. Hyde stamped through the audience, leering into their eyes, people laughed as they became part of the spectacle.

Gags lighten up some of the somber material. For instance, Stromberg "accidentally" left an apron on for a scene as a male. Grinstead communicated the costume problem with a deliberate look and she smoothly whipped it off without losing character.

The production team included Terry Collins (Set Construction), Burt Grinstead (Sound & Set Design), Matt Richter and Adam Martin (Original Lighting Design) and Anna Stromberg (Costume Design).

The show also gave context to the story by exploring Dr. Jekyll's friendships and relationships. Especially poignant is Dr. Jekyll's interactions with his maid, who ultimately becomes his moral conscience as the story navigates to its conclusion.

The show earned six Hollywood Fringe Festival Awards including Best Comedy, winner of the 2CentsTheatre Award for Distinctive Voices, and winner of the Soho Playhouse Fringe Encore Series Award.

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