by Sara Hinkson
On the evening of Saturday, October 12th, I walked tentatively into the doors of Provo’s Echo Theater just off of University Avenue to see the Mortal Fools’ production of the classic tale Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Not quite knowing what to expect theater-wise or production-wise (it was my first time in the Echo Theater, and my first time seeing a Mortal Fools production), I was hesitant to be excited; after all, I had seen small-scale performances before that did not impress. Upon walking in the doors of the theater, I was surprised to see how minuscule the stage was. Knowing that a smaller stage can sometimes make it harder to create the proper environment, I was impressed by the fact that this stage’s set-up produced a mysterious atmosphere. A wall filled with curious objects including a bust, scientific instruments, a candelabra, and a tray with brandy and glasses lined the wall, and a single door in the middle of the stage made me wonder just what was going to come through that door. However, I still felt some reservation, because no matter what the stage looks like, a performance hangs on the ability of the actors. Fortunately, once the production began, I was pleasantly surprised to find that from the very beginning of this small-scale performance I was drawn into the thrilling tale of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.
Blackout, a scream, several people talking at once—the play began, startling from its first moment. As the lights returned to set upon the first scene of the play, I was surprised to find that the acting troupe was not the bunch of college students I was expecting; instead, I found a conglomeration of experienced college students and older, professional actors. The actors moved around the stage with ease and without the awkwardness of inexperience. They used the stage extremely well; they moved among the audience, switched rooms by simply turning and moving the door around, and even created a morgue by rolling in a body on a gurney. Even when sitting on a side that provided a limited view of the facial expressions of the characters, I was able to hear their expressions through their voice inflection.
The actors’ portrayal of the characters was excellent. However, someone watching the play may be confused about the character of Mr. Hyde since each of the actors in their turn (except for the man playing Dr. Jekyll) is Mr. Hyde. Nevertheless, this portrayal of Mr. Hyde was ultimately a good decision, despite its confusing nature, because it shows what a complex character Mr. Hyde is when compared with the singular Dr. Jekyll. Each actor brought a new facet, a new dimension to Mr. Hyde: one was violent, one was scared and loving, one was accusing and analytical, one was threatening. As the play developed, the audience learned what to expect from Mr. Hyde depending on who was playing the part at the time.
Even though the story is a well-known classic, this rendition was suspenseful and surprising. It kept me sitting on the edge of my seat, just waiting for Dr. Jekyll’s friends to find out the truth about Mr. Hyde. The only problem with the play arose when the music venues on either side of the Echo Theater began to play loudly, making it difficult to focus on the performance. However, the play was so engaging that it took a moment to realize that the hard-rock music wasn’t a part of the performance. Even after that revelation, the music could not tear my attention away from the performance in front of me. Ultimately, Mortal Fools far surpassed my expectations and put on one of the best small-scale performances I’ve ever seen.