Synetic Theater has started its new season with another spectacular show. This time the talented company takes on the classic tale of good and evil, Jekyll and Hyde, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and adapted for Synetic by Nathan Weinberger and director Paata Tsikurishvili. Led by a tour de force performance by Alex Mills in the title role, Jekyll and Hyde is one of Synetic’s most powerful and strikingly visual shows to date.
The play tells the iconic story of Dr. Jekyll, a well intentioned scientist who is pursuing a formula for extracting evil from his soul, as he is about to embark on a new marriage. Of course, things go horribly wrong along the way. The iconic story lends itself to dark and colorful imagery and Synetic rises to the occasion.
Daniel Pinha’s set design is amazing. What initially looks like simple scaffolding comes to life as a sinister laboratory with the long poles evoking test tubes bubbling over with dangerous potions, and yet at the blink of an eye, the set becomes a formal ballroom and then morphs into a strip club with the poles becoming the stripper’s standard working apparatus. On the set is a large TV screen surrounded by smaller screens. The large and other screens are used effectively by Multimedia Designer Riki Kim to project disturbing yet effective images illustrating the psychotic emotion and duality tormenting Dr. Jekyll. This multimedia element adds greatly to the show’s sinister tone.
The powerful images, psychedelic screens along with the spooky jerky choreography (by Irina Tsikurishvili) by an exemplary ensemble, who act as physical manifestations of Jekyll’s evil nature, make the show look like some of the finest MTV music videos (think Michael Jackson’s Thriller). The choreography, as usual for Synetic, is quite rigorous, and this terrific ensemble is up to the task. At times, you feel you are watching the masterwork of a classic modern ballet. The choreography cleverly makes regular insider allusions to popular sequences from historic ballet choreography, including from the recent horror dance film, Black Swan.
Alex Mills is stunning as the beleaguered Dr. Jekyll and frenetic Mr. Hyde. This show is all about the battle of good versus evil within one man and he powerfully portrays the conflict within the man’s soul. In one scene we see the doctor break into his fiancée’s bedroom and approach her sleeping in bed. Mills expertly shows us how the doctor’s dark side desires to ravish his intended while his good side is fighting desperately to save her from himself. Mill’s physical manifestation of the doctor’s anguish over his divided soul is astounding to watch.
Others in the ensemble shine too. Peter Pereyra does a fine job as Dr. Jekyll’s horrified friend, Lanyon, while the lovely Brittany O’Grady is excellent as Dr. Jekyll’s delicate fiancée. Jace Casey makes a fine sexy Synetic debut. The other real standout in this production is Rebecca Hausman, who impresses as a seductive turned battered stripper.
The costumes by Chelsey Schuller are perfectly suited to the material and help transition scenes in and out of the spooky horror sequences. Andrew Griffin’s lighting is sublime, and make a key contribution to setting the show’s overarching eerie tone amidst the lighter more festive scenes. At times, haunting shadows dance on the walls amidst chaos while at other times stunning spotlights are used to great dramatic effect.
The music is also very effective. In a rare turn, well known pieces are used along with the effective original scoring by sound designer Konstantine Lorkipanidze (who worked with Irakli Kavsadze on the strong sound design). The lively score references well known songs from Pachabel’s “Canon” to The Wizard of Oz, to great effect.
This excellent wordless show proficiently and powerfully directed by Paata Tsikurishvili benefits from a strong and terrifying narrative, thrilling choreography and top notch production values.
Synetic’s Jekyll and Hyde should not be missed!
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission
Jekyll and Hyde plays through October 21, 2012 at Synetic Theater – 1800 South Bell Street, in Arlington, Virginia. For tickets, call (800) 494-8497, or purchase them online.