A vivid battle of id and ego in 'Jekyll and Hyde'; Pasadena troupe shines in a version of the classic


Pasadena Theatre Company's current production of "Jekyll and Hyde" is superbly acted and staged, philosophical and a psychologically charged thriller.

In Leonard Caddy's version of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," the action remains in 1851 London, where Dr. Henry Jekyll conducts experiments to unlock the secrets of man's inner nature and his struggles between good and evil.

Director Chuck Dick wanted to portray the dual character of Jekyll and Hyde in more than the black-and-white terms of good and evil, revealing the conflicting elements in the good doctor and his alter ego, Edward Hyde.

A multifaceted portrayal hinges on the acting prowess of the performer in the title role. David Duvall, with formidable acting skill, transforms himself into the monstrous Hyde and reveals profound aspects of Jekyll's complex personality.

As Dr. Jekyll, Duvall conveys genuine affection toward friends and, most notably, toward the maid Charlotte. Duvall's Jekyll displays a drug-addict-like compulsion as he chants "euphoria, power" before drinking the potion that, in Freudian terms, gets him to his unbridled id.

Supporting cast members who contribute to the highly charged atmosphere include PTC veterans Douglas Kotula as Poole, the butler; Kathy McBee as Hilda, the parlor maid; Keith Thompson as Jekyll's friend Dr. Lanyon; and Ray Titus as Jekyll's lawyer and protector, Utterson.

Making her PTC stage debut, Sarah Huizinga plays Penny, Hyde's barmaid girlfriend, with an interesting combination of toughness and vulnerability. A relative newcomer to PTC, Stephanie Nevin, who played Bunny in PTC's "California Suite" delivers a compelling portrait of Charlotte, who inspires Jekyll's affection.

Less successful in conveying affection is Linda Swann, who plays Jekyll's fiancee, Celestine. Seeming to concentrate on Celestine's upper-class haughtiness, Swann is so cold in her portrayal of Celestine that Duvall's Jekyll has nothing to react to. Only in the final scene does Swann show affection for Jekyll, which then seems surprising in its intensity, suddenly springing full-blown.

As is usually the case in PTC productions, the set design, here by Dick, and Wayne Shipley's execution are wonderfully realistic. Scene changes are accomplished so smoothly that even this utilitarian task becomes an engrossing part of the drama.

Lighting is excellent, and on the evening I saw the show, PTC President Sharon Steele did a first-rate job with the sound.

One minor criticism that provided a few welcome laughs was Dr. Jekyll's locked laboratory referred to throughout the play by Jekyll and members of the household staff -- with the key always in evidence. Most of the time, Duvall's Jekyll walked right through the imaginary door, only once pausing to unlock it.

The costumes are attractive and appropriate for the period, adding a note of authenticity along with the furniture and props.

"Jekyll and Hyde" continues on weekends through Oct. 17 with Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets: 410-969-1801.

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