'The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde' coming to Beaverton
The Experience Theatre Project is bringing the Wild West to Beaverton.
The project's latest show, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde," is set in 1864 in the fictional town of Brannock, Montana. Characters uncover new mysteries as evil lurks in the shadows of an otherwise bustling gold town.
The performance will include live projections, moving sets, and a working saloon that surrounds the audience and moves throughout the play. The audience can explore Dr. Henry Jekyll's laboratory or order a drink at Millie's Saloon, all while enjoying a classic gothic tale of good versus evil.
"(It's) a modern twist in a classic tale, but set in a world that truly sparks imagination and hope," said the show's artistic director, Alisa Stewart. "It's meant to give audience members more than a theatrical show."
The two-hour long play was adapted by Stewart from the gothic novella published by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. Though the show is set around the same time period, Stewart wanted to highlight the rugged nature of the Wild West, instead of the English society set in the original.
She also shifted the structure of the play to include a big confession by Dr. Jekyll at the top of the show, and then continue from the first chapter to unfold the mystery of who the character actually is. Stewart made sure to also include interactive portions for the audience throughout the theatrical performance.
"People can interact with the characters at the top of the show and ask questions about their experience in this town," Stewart said. "It's like a living museum."
With 13 people in the cast, Stewart expected each actor to know almost everything about the gold rush, so she gave them homework starting in October. The show is more than reading lines and going up on stage, she said.
Richard Cohn-Lee, who plays the character of Dr. Jekyll, said it was somewhat of a challenge to know the history along with his regular responsibilities as an actor. But it was also helpful to know how the time period impacted the characters, said Lee.
"You have to be prepared to talk about what types of people came out West," said Cohn-Lee. "I mean, that was a huge deal to leave the sanctuary — the East, the South, these established cities."
Stewart also had actors pick a real person their character could relate to during that time. Cohn-Lee chose an English doctor who did extensive research on cholera, which is a bacterial disease mentioned in the play that kills half the town, including Dr. Jekyll's family.
Dr. Jekyll finds a magical powder that cures the disease, but it also splits him into two different people.
"What we want to do here," explained Cohn-Lee, "is make it seem like we're not acting. So, to do that, kind of have to create this virtual world in your head. You have to immerse yourself on not just what your character is doing in the story."
The costumes are also true to their time, said Stewart. She spent months researching and settled on neutral colors such as beige, black and brown to accurately depict the clothing worn in that era.
Along with using some language specific to that point in history, Stewart isn't shying away from including some profanity and brief nudity in the show.
"The story is written for adults, it's not a kids' story," she added. "You can come and have an adult beverage, see adults talking to each other and enjoy adult content."
Despite the show's dark themes, Stewart hopes the performance will leave a smile on each person's face.
"I want them to walk out and really feel like they left this earth for two hours," she said. "All in all, it'll be an experience that people will remember."
Tickets for "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" at the Beaverton Masonic Lodge, located at 4690 S.W. Watson Ave., are $20 to $64. The shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17.
Seating is available for those unable to stand for more than 15 minutes at a time. Due to the intimate nature of the show, attendance is limited to 45 people per performance. The event space is handicap accessible.
The play is sponsored by Ronni Lacroute and The Collins Foundation. For more information, visit experiencetheatreproject.org.
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