Jekyll & Hyde
Theater is designed to do many things -- to entertain, to educate, to incite, to inspire, even, perhaps, to disgust. Hopefully though, if that latter is the case, the ultimate goal is to move one to change the ugly truth revealed.
Unfortunately, with "Jekyll & Hyde," the theme is appalling which seems to be its main purpose.
The story is a famous one. Dr. Jekyll’s father is in a hospital for the mentally ill. In an effort to save him, Jekyll (played by Constantine Maroulis) seeks to discover a way to extract the madness (which the show equates to evil) from the inflicted and thus save them.
Jekyll appeals to the hospital board to test the drug he has created. They, of course, deny him, citing the highest of grounds as their reasons. Instead, Jekyll tests it on himself exposing Hyde, his own evil (read madness). Hyde goes out and one by one murders each of the hospital board members. Each one is a hypocrite, a priest who frequents prostitutes, a high society woman who hates charity work despite feigning a love for it -- you get the idea.
Jekyll has a beautiful fiancée, Emma Carew (played by Teal Wicks) and at a friend’s request, he visits a strip club. There he meets Lucy Harris (played by Deborah Cox) for whom he feels sympathy. He gives her his card in case she ever needs someone.
After Hyde assaults her, she runs to Jekyll who she then thinks she loves, because, we are left to assume, women will instantly fall for any man who shows her kindness. Strike one.
Hyde returns to assault and rape Lucy again. But this time, she seems to like it because, of course, she’s a whore, because women don’t ever really mean ’no,’ or because someone’s thought up some shameful reason. Whatever the reason, the implication is abhorrent. It is impossible not to think of Rihanna and Chris Brown. Strike two.
What follows? On his next visit to Lucy he murders her. Why? Because he can, one supposes. Because he’s gone mad, one assumes. Because the prostitute always dies in the end of these tragedies, one imagines. Just once, why can’t the prostitute rise, not just in the "hooker with the heart of gold" way, but as a true heroine, a whole person? A theatergoer can dream...
As things become more desperate, Jekyll has written his estate over to Hyde in case of his own "disappearance." It’s like tacit approval of his dark side. Jekyll battles with Hyde via giant video screens onstage. At the end of the show, it seems as if Jekyll thinks he has won.
But as he is standing at the altar at his very own wedding, Hyde’s personality takes over once again. He grabs Emma and takes her away, presumably to kill her. She saves herself when she pleads with him, "I know you don’t want to hurt me." Instead he kills himself.
And that is the final blow, the final message sent, the only solution to madness to schizophrenia to dementia, is death. In other words, his father -- and anyone else who is inflicted as he is -- should be killed or left to die. They are not humans. They are monsters. They are Hyde. Strike three.
The problem is not with the production. This is a gorgeous show with sumptuous sets and undeniable talent. So don’t read this as an indictment of the production, (although it is a bit slow in a number of scenes). It is the story that is so disgusting.
The show has some nice technical tricks. Act I closes with a crucifixion image splashed across the stage. Throughout intermission, Hyde’s shadow skulks across the stage menacingly. It has some breathtaking moments too. Cox and Wicks perform a beautiful duet together, "In His Eyes." It’s really compelling to hear such distinctly different voices together, a Broadway voice and a pop music voice intertwining.
But as terrific as the voices are, as clever as the sets are, and as grand as the costumes are, the "morals" of the story are simply too distasteful at best, too harmful at worst. Jekyll feels so alive as Hyde. Lucy can’t believe that someone like Jekyll (as if his place in society makes him somehow better than she) could ever love her. That even after the rapes and assaults, all Lucy wants in life is a man and "a little romance." And, worst of all, if you’re mentally ill you should die to protect yourself from the world.
But there doesn’t seem to be any rallying cry here. This isn’t a "see how horribly women and the mentally ill are treated, let’s fix it" kind of play. It’s a "the mentally ill should die and women are weak creatures who value men more than their lives" kind of play.
There’s simply no need and no excuse, no matter how well Marouils or Cox can sing...
"Jekyll and Hyde runs through Dec. 16 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, 2403 Flora Street in Dallas. For info or tickets, call 214-880-0202 or visit www.attpac.org