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'Jekyll' reveals the beast in all of us

October 23, 2009|Charlotte Stoudt; F. Kathleen Foley; Daryl H. Miller; David C. Nichols

Virginia Woolf may have disapproved, but Robert Louis Stevenson's classic story of split personality, "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," says as much about modern psychology as a shelf full of Freud. Now running at Theatre 40, Jeffrey Hatcher's expressionistic stage adaptation of the 1886 novella gets a bold -- occasionally blunt -- treatment by director and designer Jeff G. Rack. Using little more than smoke, a two-way mirror, and a revolving upstage door, he creates a fun-house ride through a haunted psyche.

"Jekyll" plays in a Victorian London hooked on the "C.S.I." of its day, namely public dissections of working-class folk who died in grisly ways. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Darren Tyler Morgan), a crusader against such quackery, attempts to isolate the beast in man's nature to cure it. Naturally his plan goes horribly wrong, and soon the good doctor is transforming nightly into the raging Mr. Hyde (primarily played by Scott Roberts), given to beating men into pulps and carving up prostitutes.

Hatcher's central conceit has the entire ensemble taking on the role of Hyde at different points, underscoring Stevenson's point that the dark figure represents the aggressive impulse in us all. Theatrically it's an effective take, supported here by David Marling's snarling sound design and Ellen Monocroussos' spooky lighting. Some performances and transitions are awkward, but the gripping story keeps you hooked: "Jekyll" is pulp pleasure for the Halloween season.


Charlotte Stoudt --

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Theatre 40, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 8. $23 to $25. Contact: (310) 364-0535. Running time: 2 hours.


When ambition is contagious

Set in a trendy Hollywood restaurant, "La Ronde de Lunch" Peter Lefcourt's sunny sendup of show business insiders, can be as piquant as the exotic menu offerings. However, although certainly entertaining, the play only occasional reaches the levels of howling hilarity that are so obviously intended.

Lefcourt has obviously based his play on Arthur Schnitzler's 1900 play "Reigen," the inspiration for several film and stage adaptations, most notably Max Ophuls' film classic "La Ronde."

The action transpires in 10 scenes featuring two characters, one of whom factors into the subsequent scene. In the original and in most adaptations, the encounters have been of a sexual nature. A doctor, Schnitzler was intent upon dramatizing the venereal epidemic that was sweeping Europe at the time. In Lefcourt's take, the "disease" is rabid ambition, and it is comically communicable.

The players include a temperamental glamour queen (Kathryn Harrold), who is widely rumored to be all washed up in the pictures, and a workaday real estate agent (Gina Hecht), who jettisons her ethical standards after a juicy Hollywood deal is dangled in front of her.

Somewhat oddly, Lefcourt links his scenes with a comical Greek chorus of cavorting waiters -- a device that, despite Tracy Silver's delightful interstitial choreography, doesn't quite jibe with the simple circular format.

However, in a delightfully over-the-top staging, director Terri Hanauer lets her large and talented cast off the leash, allowing actors to romp freely through Lefcourt's extravagancies. Hecht is particularly effective as a well-meaning woman seduced by a Faustian bargain, and Jay Huguley is funny as the hottest star in Hollywood, a spectacularly entitled bonehead at the peak of puffery.


F. Kathleen Foley --

"La Ronde de Lunch," Skylight, 1816 Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 15. $25. (310) 358-9936. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.


Tale of theatrical family falls short

Henry Jaglom's new play feels awfully familiar. First there's its title, "Just 45 Minutes From Broadway," which all but sets you to whistling the George M. Cohan song containing that jaunty phrase. Then there's the story, about a free-spirited theater family much like the one in Noel Coward's "Hay Fever." When one family member attempts to break free to a "normal" life, a still deeper sense of deja vu sets in, for this, of course, is the gist of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's "You Can't Take It With You."

Like his distinguished predecessors, Jaglom -- the filmmaker behind "Eating" and a number of entertainment-world stories, including "Last Summer in the Hamptons" -- embraces the folly and the heroism of his characters. But that's where similarities end, for this story, presented by Jaglom's Rainbow Theatre Company, musters a mere smidgen of off-the-cuff psychology before heading toward a calculatedly eye-misting resolution.

Aging married actors (Jack Heller as the cranky-cuddly father, Diane Salinger as the airy-fairy mother) live outside New York City in a rambling, memorabilia-strewn home that glows with nostalgia and romance (set and lights by Joel Daavid).

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