Synetic Theater’s Jekyll and Hyde — the wrath of the black swan

In your strangest dreams, could you imagine that Dr. Jekyll’s second identity is an ‘upside-down’ black swan? Synetic’s director, Paata Tsikurishvili, did.  Yep, Odile, but with a twist.

Humor aside, this is another superb production by Synetic, and note on this site is much overdue, as I have enjoyed their plays for almost three years now.  This is the trailer and one of the many reviews for Jekyll and Hyde.  Runs through October 21 in Crystal City and is highly recommended.

There is no reason to repeat all the positive aspects noted by the professional reviewers.  Alex Mills’ transforming Jekyll into Hyde is very vivid, elaborate, and unsettling.  Both the director’s vision and actor’s unique abilities make this an unforgettable experience for the viewer.  Alex Mills has performed with Synetic as Merlin in King Arthur, Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo in Romeo & Juliet, and an outstanding  Azazello in Master & Margarita – to name just a few roles.  However, Alex’s enormous dramatic potential shows even more in Jekyll/Hyde.

In their productions, Synetic always has the golden mix of a powerful moral statement and entertainment.  Ideally, here I would have preferred an even stronger message.  However, the director’s choice to blend a dose of humor into Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde concoction might be right.  While arts carry both entertainment and ideological/educational function, in a consumer-oriented environment, at least part of the presentation is determined by the audience’s preferences.  Not to say that the play cannot try to re-educate the viewers or make them think deeper.  But if you scare everyone off by unsuitable to current tastes presentation, you won’t have anyone to educate.

The audience here clearly prefers at least some humor.  And this challenging task is skillfully achieved.  Transformed into a perverted black swan, Hyde is dehumanized into a creature, a humanoid thing.  This does send the right message that evil can be very liberating and there lies the danger.  But it also makes it easier to inject minor humorous elements into Hyde’s actions and take the edge off.   The black swan’s rampage would have been much more unnerving, had he retained more human features.  And we should probably thank Paata and Alex for not having taken the unsettling path.  There are a few good books that I cannot pick up again after reading once, as they were too disturbing.

In conclusion I would note outstanding work of the set designer, Daniel Pinha.  Also, Rebecca Hausman is an excellent new find for the theater.  I read that she played Masha in Chekhov’s Chaika.  I wish I could have seen that  — it seems to me she would be excellent in that role.

Personally, I very much enjoyed two unusual elements in Jekyll and Hyde: the gas masks and the black swan.  These reminded me of the two incongruent, yet essential elements of my Soviet past: civil defense exercises and arts, and made me feel quite at home :-). // *


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