DC at Night

DC at Night

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jekyll and Hyde

Alex Mills on stage as Jekyll and on screen as Hyde.
It is a story as old as man himself. The battle between the duality of our nature - good versus evil. And few tales have captured that contest better than Robert Louis Stevenson's cautionary classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which the always innovative, always brilliant Synetic Theater has used as the basis for their latest production Jekyll and Hyde.

In Synetic's version, it is technology that brings out the evil side of the good scientist Jekyll.

"As a people, as a nation, even as a species, technology is in our bones, our blood, our minds, our very bodies. It has become more than just a convenience; it is something we can no longer live without," writes Synetic founding artistic director Paata Tsikurishvili in the program notes. "This process has become vital - sometimes dangerously so - to our comfort, security, health, defense, superiority - indeed to our very existence

"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a perfect reflection of this condition. In his attempts to perfect himself by filtering all evil from his psyche, Jekyll ironically and unwittingly unleashes chaos - an agent of pure evil - onto the world. He has become one with his technological achievements, and like many of us today, is unavoidably linked to all their consequences, both the positive and the horribly negative," Tsikurishvili  adds.

There is so much to commend in the Synetic's retelling that it is difficult to know where to begin. First, there is the star, Alex Mills, who is mesmerizing as he contorts his body into almost unnatural positions as he undergoes his transformations on stage. As is only fitting in a play about the dangers of technology, Mills shares his billing with a contraption containing a giant screen with several smaller screens attached. With its ominous green lighting and its faded black and white images, the machine allows Mills to be on stage simultaneously as both Jekyll and Hyde and eventually serves as a prison for the lost goodness that was Jekyll.
The performance is done in a steampunk style which lets it recall the original Victorian setting of Stevenson's work while suggesting some Apocalyptic-like future. Indeed, in his mad-scientist laboratory, Jekyll is joined by 6 gas-mask wearing creatures resembling nothing so much as denizens of a futuristic dystopia like that portrayed in films such as Mad Max and The Road Warrior.

Jekyll's transformation to a creature of pure evil is hastened by his unwilling visit to a strip club urged on him by his cigar smoking best friend Lanyon. While Jekyll initially helps save a stripper from an attacker, he eventually succumbs to his evil impulses, brutally murders the stripper ( in a reflection of the Jekyll/Hyde duality played both provocatively and innocently by Rebecca Hausman), and turns into the all-evil Hyde.

As is usual for a Synetic production, the performance is wordless, the dancing is extraordinary, and the death count is high. The company uses body movement, acrobatics, facial expressions, dance, film, and music to tell its tale. And, as is also always usual for the highly awarded company, those elements blend in near perfection to provide a night of highly entertaining, thought-provoking theater. Once again - kudos all around.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
Washington has much to commend when it comes to theater. There is the Kennedy Center, the Arena Stage, the Woolly Mammoth Company, the Taffety Punk group, etc. But our favorite is Synetic. Now granted, part of the attraction may lie in the fact that the theater is located in the Crystal City underground, which we jokingly refer to as our basement since, as residents of Crystal Plaza, we never have to go outside to attend a performance. However, despite the convenience, it is the quality of performances that has made us subscribers. If you haven't attended a unique, groundbreaking Synetic performance, you should. Here's the upcoming dates:

  • A Trip to the Moon - Dec. 6 to Jan. 6
  • The Tempest - Feb. 21 to March 24
  • The Three Musketeers - May 9 to Jun 9.

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