By Daniel Skora
The latest classic to get the Slipstream Initiative Theatre makeover is Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. The revamped version is called “Dr. Heidi Jekyll”, and though the play still deals with the transformation of its title character from a good, decent (wo)man to a self-centered, uncontrollable one, it does so with a contemporary twist in a contemporary setting.
Dr. Heidi Jekyll has accomplished much on her way to becoming head of research and development of a large pharmaceutical company. Bright, educated, and dedicated, Heidi is an important part of her company’s success. But Heidi has a condition, and every time she attends an A.A. meeting she declares it with these words to both herself and to those similarly afflicted: “I am an alcoholic”.
So far she’s been doing fine, sticking to soft drinks in a business where contracts are often signed and sealed over much more potent stuff. But Heidi has an alter-ego lurking inside, and that alter-ego loves the taste, the confidence, and the excitement generated by spirited beverages. So if you’re not particularly sociable, like Heidi, and the pressures of your job keep escalating, why not use every kind of advantage available to steady your nerves and increase your ability to cope?
If you’re looking for one of those Jekyll-to-Hyde cinematic transformations the movies have been famous for providing over the years, you won’t find one here. Slipstream’s production has two Heidi Jekylls, the one played by Mandy Logsdon a conscientious employee who’s using all her willpower to remain sober, the other played by Laura Heikkinen a seductive temptress who craves the pleasure, the excitement, and the confidence that alcohol has to offer. And all it takes to complete the transformation of the one into the other is a drink.
Heidi and her alter-ego often share the stage together, engaging in a little psychological warfare. To drink or not to drink is not only the question, but the very tension that permeates the play from beginning to end. Logsdon and Heikkinen are well-cast for their parts, both individually and collectively as the two do battle for Heidi’s soul.
“Dr. Heidi Jekyll” is a nicely conceived adaptation by Luna Alexander and Victoria Rose Weatherspoon, who also serve as the show’s directors. Those who have never read Stevenson’s novella or remember the premise but have forgotten those details that flesh out the story might find the show a bit more rewarding by reading a plotline summary beforehand. Many characters, scenes and details are picked up from the original, but have changed somewhat as they’ve made their way through the makeover mill. The show makes subtle demands on the audience: the six male characters in the show are played by just two actors (Ryan Ernst and Steve Xander Carson), and as their identities and relationships change in the course of the play, it sometimes requires an extra bit of detective work to figure out exactly who’s who.
While maintaining the integrity of Stevenson’s original plot, “Heidi” rescues the story from being a work of purely imaginative fiction and turns it into a tense, realistic drama. And while its theme remains the duality of good and evil in the human personality, the trigger which activates change is not some secret potion or serum, but the readily available substance of alcohol. It addresses the topic of alcoholism with sensitivity and understanding.
“Dr. Heidi Jekyll” is enjoyably entertaining, well cast, and progresses briskly through its 90 minute running time. The show’s set, divided into three distinct areas for the various scenes is designed by Ryan Ernst. Costumes are by Tiaja Sabrie while sound design is by Luna Alexander. The production continues through March 12th. Tickets are available online at slipstreamti.com or by calling the box office at 1.313.986.9156. The Slipstream Theatre is located at 460 Hilton Rd. in Ferndale