At 375 Depot St. in the River Arts District sits a small theater that offers a big time performance.
I saw this firsthand last weekend as I took a seat inside the intimate Magnetic Theatre and enjoyed the season premiere of “When Jekyll Met Hyde.”
For me, the draw was seeing a play involving the “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” theme. Seeing as it is quite possibly my favorite book ever, and Robert Louis Stevenson is a favorite author, it’s no surprise that I wanted to be there on opening night — and boy, I didn’t leave disappointed.
At first, I wasn’t sure how I would react to a show that combines a dark and somber 19th century literary work with ridiculous humor. The idea of laughing at what I know to be a tragic story felt weird. But these feelings subsided about two minutes into the show — about the time I was laughing out loud and slapping my leg at the same time.
The audience chuckled with me while the characters’ voices filled the room in a melodramatic fashion. In some cases, there was a little bit of sass thrown in there — just for fun. This clearly wasn’t the “Jekyll and Hyde” story I knew, and I absolutely loved it.
For me, the most captivating parts of the show involved the main character, Erik Moellering, who painted a hilarious portrait of both Jekyll and Hyde with just the means of body language, facial expressions and what seemed like large buckteeth that only popped out when Hyde came out to play.
I’m pretty sure I laughed every time Moellering transformed into his “darker” self, mostly because he was so animated about it — flailing around the stage, flapping his arms — it was quite ridiculous, in all the ways that would make a person belly laugh. So I did.
The cool thing about this show is that it is made up of an entirely new cast but only about five total actors played the roles. This offered a really intimate feel during the show. By the time the two hours are up, you feel like you’ve gotten to know the cast personally and it makes you want to stay after the show and shake their hand.
While Moellering was playing the title role(s), you had a sweet-yet-sultry Julia Cunningham playing Claire and Miss Fanny, a roaring Cody Magouirk portraying The Rev. Hastie, a boisterous Sarah Felmet, who made audiences cackle when she acted as Miss Gina and the elderly Mrs. Hawkins. And then you have Dr. Jekyll’s quirky manservant, Poole, who is played by Steven Samuels — the writer and director of the show. With only a few props on stage, just those five actors made the story come alive in a booming fashion.
I have to say, for Poole being a small character — he was my favorite. The only way I can describe him is “over-the-top.” He was so peculiar — every line he said was dripped in drama and his frantic, over-dramatic gestures made Moellering’s insane bucktooth “Hyde” character seem normal by comparison. Poole’s character only became more spastic and silly as the show progressed, and I guess that kind of humor tickles my funny bone.
“When Jekyll Met Hyde” is not the same “Jekyll and Hyde” story you’re probably expecting. This show is not only hilarious, but offers a very different feminist twist and with a surprise ending. For someone like me who loves the classic story, this just made the characters Jekyll and Hyde even more fun…and funny. Yes, it’s still a bizarre story, but this time, the bizarreness is enhanced and the dark shocking side of these characters produces a shock of laughter instead. It’s impossible not to laugh, and yet the story is still strange, complicated and fascinating at the same time.
There are some adult themes in the show, so I wouldn’t bring any children along to see the show, but if you’re in the mood to laugh and you want to see top-notch acting up close — and in a most dramatic fashion — then this show is a must see. The facial expressions alone will make you laugh uproariously. These actors literally have “funny” written on their faces.
“When Jekyll Met Hyde” shows will be held each week on Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The show will be running until Oct. 29. Tickets cost $21 online or $24 at the door. $10 student rush tickets are available 15 minutes before curtain with valid student I.D. Tickets can be purchased at www.themagnetictheatre.org.
Call 828-239-9250 for more information.
By Shelby Harrell