We're continually delighted by drama at the Court Street Theater in Nashua. Tonight was no exception. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is entertaining, suspenseful, intense at times, and refreshingly humorous at others. Eric Rochette portrays Dr.Henry Jekyll, a doctor doing dangerous experiments on himself in an effort to separate the good and evil aspects of human nature. As his personality splits into the two extremes of good and evil, his superego conscience struggles (painfully and brilliantly) to reconcile the id-iotic deeds of his alter-ego. The tension is palpable as he labors to conceal his evil counterpart, demonstrating his frustration physically with odd twitches, madly wringing hands, maniacal cackling, and outbursts to even his dearest friends. We wonder: When will Hyde take over and turn this man into a monster capable of killing?
When Tom Partridge enters the stage to play Mr. Hyde, he's pure evil, but in a way that we can still find the humor in his extreme mania. He clearly enjoys this part and makes it humorous with the extemity of his maniacal laughter and banging of his cane. I can't even think of his performance and write this without cracking up in peals of laughter. It may not sound like one, but that is a meant to be a compliment. Just to keep his right eye shut and maintain the misshapen grimace with apparent ease through all his scenes is noteworthy. He definitely earned my (Angel's) compliment for outstanding actor in this show, although he is amidst by a very talented cast. An excellent combination are Rochette and Partridge, who complement each other in a way that makes their terrible plight a thoroughly enjoyable and watchable experience.
Carolyn White gives dimension and expression to the character of Diana, even as she watches the man she loves become overpowered and eventually destroyed by his darker side. As her mother, Joan Lawson (Lady Danvers Carew), is haughtily superior and effectively condescending to Jekyll.
Pauline, Jekyll's maid of twenty years, portrayed by Katherine Palmer, is filled with convincing terror and confusion aptly presented to the audience. Allison Szklarz as Bridget backs her up with unwavering certainty bordering on the humorous (particularly in her bedclothes complete with hairnet), despite Jekyll's insistence that her visions are mere hallucinations.
Chris Demers, despite his difficulty with the accent, more than makes up for it with his expressive motions and powerful voice. He does justice to the part of Mr. Utterson, who must make sense of his friend Jekyll's ignoble deeds, and protect him from the law and from himself. Mitch Fortier as his cousin, Richard Enfield, delivers his lines with intensity and personality -- gracefully mastering the London accent. Gary Locke as Dr. Lanyon delicately plays the part of Jekyll's long-time pseudo-friend who none the less disbelieves in Jekyll's research, eventually becoming terrified as he witnesses the terrible outcome of Jekyll's all-too-successful research.
Paula Demers as Connie does a great job of theatrics within theatrics. She is apparently more concerned with her vanity than the emotional reaction of Lady Carew's daughter as she recounts the gruesome tale of the murder of Lady Danvers Carew.
Eric A. Kirchhoff does an adequate portrayal of Inspector Newcomen, donning the cape coat, pipe, and stereotypical scowl of a Scotland Yard inspector, along with the properly inquisitive - "I don't quite believe your story. Tell me the truth now, laddie" aspect with which he regards Dr. Jekyll.
The costumes are appropriate attire for Londoners of that era. Hyde's humpback and cape fit his character nicely, as does the ball-tipped cane. This is a one set show, set in the living room of Dr. Jekyll's home in London. Even on their front facing stage downstairs in Playhouse 101, this is a realistically designed set with a nice desk, regal couch and chairs, an offstage lab eerily lit in neon green, and nicely stenciled wallpaper. The stencil, a creation of the Director, Rita Harden, is very appropriately a combination of a devil and a dove's faces. Also to the credit of the Director, the show has good continuity and the characters interact smoothly.
Good Theater is to be found at the Court Street Theatre in Nashua. We have always enjoyed our evenings there, and we fondly reminisce about the incredible chilling intensity of "Gaslight" (by the American Stage Festival) and the humor of "The Miser" (by the Nashua Theater Guild), as we shall about the well rendered drama of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by the Merrimack Community Theatre. We strongly recommend this show -- and this place -- to everyone.