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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Chemical Imbalance
A Jekyll and Hyde Play

Also see John's review of La Cage aux Folles

Chemical Imbalance
Tom Wahl
Currently celebrating its 35th season, the Caldwell Theatre proudly presents Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play. This broad farce by Lauren Wilson is based on the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale of "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" written in 1886. Commonly know as just "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Louis' story has been adapted dozens of times for stage and over 123 times for film. This examination of the duality of human nature and the inner conflict between good and evil is given perhaps its most humorous treatment in this version written by Lauren Wilson and directed by Clive Cholerton.

Chemical Imbalance is the story of the shy Henry Jekyll, who is the unmarried son of a wealthy Victorian family. In his laboratory, he conducts secret experiments in an attempt to isolate the organic component that determines whether we are controlled by the good or the evil inside us. Finding a potion he believes will work, he tries it out on himself to disastrous effect. His evil half is an alter ego named Mr. Hyde who emerges to wreak murder and mayhem. In the end, a well meaning Jekyll must pay the price for the crimes committed by Hyde, and is punished for his own sin of tampering with nature and the will of God.

Set design by Tim Bennett is a well turned out Victorian drawing room, with the added humorous addition of props that are intentionally not fully three-dimensional—such as teacups that are flat, thick cardboard. Any doubts about the comical approach to this piece are allayed by the hairpieces worn in the first scene. As the curtain rises, the matriarch of the family, Euphronia Jekyll (played by Angie Radosh), sports a six-inch-tall, conical bun on the side of her head like a drunken unicorn. Daughter Ambrosia (played by Erin Joy Schmidt) enters wearing a severe, Victorian-inspired beehive hairdo. Let us not forget Lady Throckmortonshire, played by a man in full drag (John Felix). Her ornate hats are bizarre sculptures, filled with things like pitchers of cream being poured onto flowers. There are also the stereotypes of the period, such as the foppish dandy, Xavier Utterson (played by Wynn Harmon) and the overly poised young woman awaiting marriage to Henry, Rosamunda Dewthistle (played by Amy Elaine Anderson). Of course, in this version, Rosamunda may not be as virtuous as in others, and Henry's sister Ambrosia may be more interested in her than is Henry.

Tom Wahl transitions smoothly from Jekyll to Hyde in a comic style a bit like Jerry Lewis. It is all a question of false teeth and tousled hair, but the change works—and getting there is the fun. Amy Elaine Anderson is lovely as a Rosamunda budding with repressed sensuality. Erin Joy Schmidt is funniest as the Chaplin-inspired Constable. One has to do a double take at Tiffany-Leigh Moskow in the double role of good-evil twin sisters Caliope and Penelope Throckmortonshire. She is a grown, young woman convincingly playing girls about the age of 12. Lindsey Forgey is funny as the fumbling and high strung Irish maid Ivy, and certainly turns in her share of screams of fright. John Felix has the plum role of the show as Lady Throckmortonshire. He is enjoyably stuffy and snobbish—bedecked with intentionally atrocious hats and bad makeup. Upon taking a sip of Hyde's potion, he gets to indulge in the Lady Throckmortonshire "evil" side, which in this case means she takes a liking to women.

This production casts convention aside in favor of all that is silly. The comedy may be a bit too broad and slapstick, however, as at times it looks like a Three Stooges movie. If it is substance you seek, you will find none in this production of Chemical Imbalance, but that is not what they mean to offer. From start to finish, this is a period farce done for fluff and fun.

Lauren Wilson is a playwright, director and teacher. In addition to Chemical Imbalance, she has also written The Golden State and Wedding Duet. Wilson holds an M.F.A. in Theater from Sarah Lawrence College in 2007, and a 2008 Dramatists Guild Fellowship. She currently teaches acting, dramatic writing and theater history at the State University of New York, and at Dell'Arte's M.F.A. program in Ensemble Theater.

Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play will be appearing through February 7, 2010 at the Caldwell Theatre. The Caldwell Theatre Company is a professional theatre company hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. The Caldwell Theatre Company is designated by the State of Florida as a Cultural Institution and receives funding from the State of Florida through the Florida Department of State, the Florida Arts Council and the Division of Cultural Affairs. The Caldwell Theatre Company is located in the Count De Hoernle Theatre at 7901 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton, FL. Performance times are Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8:00 pm, and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm. For information and/or tickets you may contact them by phone at 561-241-7432 or online at www.caldwelltheatre.com.

Cast:
Ivy: Lindsey Forgey
Ambrosia Jekyll/Constable: Erin Joy Schmidt*
Euphronia Jekyll: Angie Radosh*
Plodgett: Laura Turnbull*
Henry Jekyll: Tom Wahl*
Xavier Utterson/Police lieutenant: Wynn Harmon*
Rosamunda Dewthistle: Amy Elaine Anderson
Lady Throckmortonshire: John Felix*
Calliope/Penelope Throckmortonshire: Tiffany-Leight Moskow

Crew:
Director: Clive Cholerton
Scenic Design: Tim Bennett
Lighting Design: John D. Hall
Costume Design: Alberto Arroyo
Projections: Sean Lawson
Stage Manager: Robert Herrle*

*Indicates member of the Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.


Photo: Sean Lawson


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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