ASHLAND, Ore.—British playwright David Edgar's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the chilling Victorian tale of one man's dark descent into dual identity , will open at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 29, in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Angus Bowmer Theatre.
Festival Associate Artistic Director Penny Metropulos directs this often-told tale of good vs. evil, featuring James Newcomb as both Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde.
"David Edgar has taken something we know really well and put his own twist to it," said Metropulos. "The play is distinctly Victorian, yet it also has a very contemporary psychological and thematic context. … At the same time, David's play is hugely theatrical and fun and provocative."
For Newcomb, playing dark characters like Jekyll and Hyde is compelling but also necessitates an immersion into what makes these people become the creatures they are.
"On the heels of playing Richard III last season, one of the things that attracted me about doing Jekyll and Hyde was the premise that evil isn't arbitrary," Newcomb said. "It comes from something. Evil breeds evil. In order to break the cycle of violence, of perversion, first you must be conscious that it exists."
Edgar's adaptation departs from Stevenson's novella in some significant ways, notably with the addition of prominent female characters, namely Jekyll's widowed sister Katherine Urquart and the maidservant Annie Loder, who becomes part of Jekyll's household. The idea of the "New Woman" — independent, opinionated, and a threat to the old male guard — was causing a stir in Victorian society at the time.
As Edgar writes in his introduction to the script, "It is also the era in which men started to fight back against the New Woman. I wanted to show the feminine threat that is implicit in the novel and the best way to do that was to give (Jekyll) not a fiancée but a sister, and to make her an example of those very forces that were so alarming men like Henry Jekyll."
The cast of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde also features festival veterans Vilma Silva, David Kelly, Richard Farrell and U. Jonathan Toppo. For a full cast and design team list, visit www.osfashland.org/browse/production.aspx?prod=10.
Tickets are available online at www.osfashland.org, or by phone at 541-482-4331. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will run through Oct. 28.