Theater Review: freeFall's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

I’ve been reading Martin Gilbert’s mammoth history of the Holocaust, and after more than 700 pages, one thing is clear: the atrocities of 1939-45 weren’t the work of just a few twisted individuals. For the widespread torture and murder of those years to have taken place, not scores but thousands of willing perpetrators were necessary, not only in Germany but everywhere from France to the Ukraine. Sure, some of the Nazis were unnaturally vicious. But they found willing and necessary accomplices in ordinary folk from all over Europe, folk who dashed out infants’ brains, buried young women alive, marched emaciated civilians to death and deliberately slaughtered the sick and the elderly.

In other words, Robert Louis Stevenson had it right in Jekyll and Hyde: at the core of the most seemingly civilized human is a monster capable of the most horrendous crimes, performed with real joy. And what this monster needs in order to show its face isn’t trauma or psychosis; what it needs is permission.

I thought about this terrible truth as I watched freeFall Theatre’s version of Stevenson’s tale at The [email protected] This fine but curiously cerebral production offers much excellent acting, sharp direction and topnotch design, but it attenuates Stevenson’s message far too much to be really powerful. There are several reasons for this, all of them found in Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of the famous novella.