By Christine Fusselman
Media Club Reporter
Murder! Mystery! Mayhem!
This steampunk version of the Victorian era Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, playing in the Capital BlueCross Theatre in The Underground Nov. 19 and 20, promises to be unlike any you’ve seen.
Dr. Jekyll is confronted by not one, but multiple facets of his own alter ego in this adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher.
Director Janet Bixler, theater director and Central Penn faculty member, says she chose to use the steampunk style because it is a way to add elements of science-fiction from the industrial age, along with fun and creative costumes and staging.
Steampunk is a theatrical costuming and literary science fiction and fantasy genre that combines Victorian-era clothing and contemporary or old-looking mechanics, usually operated by steam.
“This [adaptation] adds a level of intrigue to the original in the way that he adds multiple Hydes,” Bixler says. “It becomes a more community story than a story of one man. Using four actors to play multiple roles symbolizes how gray our moral compass is and heightens the level of science fiction.”
Some of the players will be switching characters without switching costumes, making for quick, short scenes, according to Bixler. She says the play is very action-driven, yet very poetic.
Referring to this adaptation versus the original, Bixler says, “It has the same intention, but Hatcher broke it down to the essence of determining for oneself where you are on the (morality) spectrum of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
Sharing the stage with community members
Auditions were held in August and students, alumni and two community members were cast. When some of the cast left due to scheduling conflicts, two more community members were added, both of them experienced actors.
“I love the fact that the play calls on most of the actors to play more than one role,” says Paul Whitman, one of the community actors. “For years now, I’ve been an avid fan of Victorian melodrama as portrayed in BBC TV productions, so I’ve had huge fun trying out a cockney accent for Mr. Sanderson, the personal enquiries agent, and an Irish accent for the police inspector. It makes me wish I had taken to the stage a long time before this.”
Whitman added: “The blend of community members along with students has been great fun.”
Criminal justice student and actor Teta Gaye, 20, said she likes the community involvement.
“I feel like everything works much smoother and faster,” Gaye says “Central Penn College students should get involved more because of the opportunity, experience and the fun.”
Besides Gaye, the cast includes Central Penn students Tyler Willis, Alexis Ensley-Gregg and Jessica Grice. Besides Whitman, community cast members include Frank Butcher, Bob Zaccano and Anthony Geraci.
It takes a village
“Although there are one-person shows, no production could be successful without a crew,” Bixler says.
The crew for this show includes Central Penn Students Daniel Blichasz, tech manager; Danielle Farber, stage manager; Jaida May-Woodfolk, crew; and Ashley Walker, house manager.
Community theatre member Mandi Lea Hurley is the dresser and steampunk subject-matter expert, and Aaron Lute, is the Central Penn Central technical support specialist to round out the crew.
If you go
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will begin at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 and 20. Tickets cost $7 general admission and $3 for students.
Tickets will be available at the box office. They can also be purchased online at http://www.centralpenn.edu/college-services/capital-bluecross-theatre/.
That page also has information about the Capital BlueCross Theatre.