NKU’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” Invites You To ‘Sit Back, But Don’t Relax’

Review by Katrina Reynolds

Being a lover of spooky things and gothic tales, I was both excited and nervous to see the Jeffrey Hatcher adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde presented by NKU. Fortunately for all who attend, SOTA puts on a “hell” of a show. 

Described as “a new and shocking version of…[the] classic tale of depravity, lust, love, and horror,” Hatcher’s adaptation of the novella certainly puts some spins on the tragedy most of us know well. In this tale we see Dr. Henry Jekyll, a kind and intelligent scientist who is found to be meddling in the darker side of science and fraternizing with the seedy Mr. Edward Hyde. Dr. Jekyll’s colleagues are concerned about this new and problematic relationship – and as the age-old story unfolds, the audience discovers their misgivings are more than credible. This particular version of the narrative has nearly every actor onstage playing multiple characters including several who play the odious Hyde.

Director Michael Hatton is to be commended for a job done beautifully. Produced in NKU’s Stauss Theatre, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde set is simple yet terribly creative. Pieces are moved rather seamlessly by the actors and not only offer easy ways to change a scene into an entirely different location, but also offer the audience in the round a fair view over the course of the hour and 40-minute (no intermission!) presentation.

Kudos to Scenic Designer Ron Shaw, Lighting Designer Luke Eisner, and Technical Director Rob Kerby for their part in the cohesive stage pictures. With a few exceptions (unnecessary sound effects for the locking of the door when the actual lock made its own sound, for example), Sound Designer Jo Sanburg chose inventive sound saturation and background haunts to make the audience feel like they are the ones being surrounded by the action rather than the other way around. Costumes by Shelby Smith were tens across the board with skillful choices made in the details (the accessories representing when an actor was Hyde, etc.) and the accuracy of the period clothing. 

Cast of NKU's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
Cast of NKU’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

While the ensemble of actors in this show is very strong and homogenous, particular praise needs to be paid to Mark Schutzman who plays several roles including Dr. H.K. Lanyon and a riveting version of Hyde. Mr. Schutzman’s mastery of both accents used by his characters as well as his very clear choices in how to convey these people as separate personalities is captivating from the first moment we see him until the very last. Jordan Whittaker as (primarily) Gabriel Utterson, Dr. Jekyll’s trusted barrister, absolutely nails the extreme upper-crust accent and shows an air of both a man of importance and a friend who has genuine concern. Ellie Bennett excels in the portrayal of each of her characters with her depiction of Poole, Jekyll’s servant, making the strongest impact. As a stickler for accents, I must give a special shout-out to Dialect Coach Michael King who coached his impressive performers well.

This strong and active script should be done more often (take note, Know Theatre and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company: this reviewer is ready to direct or be on stage with this piece in the near future ;-). Even under the spell of the gothic and macabre veil from the 1800s, the battle between good and evil within ourselves is timeless. It should also be noted that these up-and-coming theatre students are ready to do business. 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde runs through November 6. Tickets can be purchased at nku.edu/tickets or by calling (859) 572-5464.