Monday, April 21, 2008

Hyde and Go Seek


Clay Continent
Adapted and Directed by Bob Fisher
The Mammals
The Peter Jones Gallery
1806 West Cuyler, 2nd Floor
Two shows left - April 25 & 26
1-866-593-4614 for reservations

For the record, I know the actors and the director of this show very well. Have worked with them all before. Know 'em, love 'em, want to give birth to their babies.

Now the review.

Clay Continent is a riff on the classic Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Most adaptations of classic stories typically do one of two things; they either take the adaptation too literally making a rather ham-fisted affair or they abandon the story entirely and just use the concept and character names - most adaptations of Frankenstein and Dracula follow the second tactic. Clay Continent, thankfully, doesn't fit comfortably in either category. It focuses on the three main characters; Jekyll, Hyde and Utterson.

Utterson? Who the hell is Utterson? In the novella, Utterson is Jekyll's lawyer and friend. If, like me, you are more familiar with the countless TV and film adaptations of the story, you have never heard of Utterson. Even though the Stevenson story is told from his perspective, the character is often cut to focus on Jekyll/Hyde and the impact his duality has on his love life.

In Clay Continent, Bob Fisher has stripped away the story to focus on the turmoil the three central characters are going through. There is no narrative. The characters speak lines collaged from several different works. They often speak simultaneously creating an orchestrated effect. They move in and out of each other's spaces as their pain ebbs and flows. The actors all wear microphones, amplifying their heavy breathing and speaking and heightening the nightmarish quality of the piece. The performances are full of life. Don Hall (Utterson), Jen Ellison (Jekyll) and Dave Goss (Hyde) each crawl, eek, or barrel across the stage fully committed to their characters. Hyde is the only character to address the audience, which is disconcerting since he is one messed up bastard. He is not the devilish Hyde we know from films. No cape, cane or top hat. He is hunched over, snarling, and he does mean things to cats.

While I admire the staging of the piece - it is also very strikingly visual - and I appreciate it digging into the subtext of the story, I found it alienating. The characters are so wrapped up in what they are doing, there doesn't seem to be any effort to include the audience. It goes on in spite of us. And the characters are all at such a heightened state, there's also no opportunity to connect or relate to any of them. I feel that Utterson, being the most grounded of the three, should be the person I most associate with and perhaps even root for, but there are no moments that allow for that. I think it's a very basic element of theater to engage the audience and that didn't appear to be one of their goals. It's interesting, but I wouldn't recommend it for date night.


What the fuck, people? We had fifty people who reserved an audition slot. We scheduled people at ten minute intervals to make sure we ran on time. We had 21 people not show up! How fricking unprofessional is that? I have never run into that before in any set of auditions ever. We think what happened is that people may have freaked out at the last minute. People were told to do two minutes of whatever they wanted to do. We saw some great stuff, though. Some traditional monologues, some anecdotes, a woman juggled a sword, one auditionee didn't show up in person, but sent a package containing a flip book of his face and a cassette tape of him singing a song. We had a lot of great people show up, so I'm not worried about casting the show. But when 21 people don't show, that's a lot of unnecessary down time forced upon the playwright and director. Even more frustrating was when no one bothered to show up in the last hour on Saturday. At Columbia College, if a student signs up for an audition and doesn't show up, they are blackballed from auditioning for the rest of the semester. You can bet WNEP is going to keep track. If we can't count on you to show up to a confirmed scheduled audition, we can't count on you to be in a show.


Last week we didn't have one and we don't have one this week. Next week may be in question, too, as we have tech all day Saturday for our new show. But keep checking in. We will get back in the groove on these. In the meantime, I recommend doing a rewrite of a piece you haven't looked at in some time.


Friday, I asked...

"A structure built for the 1958 World's Fair in Belgium celebrated its 50th anniversary. It was built to resemble what?"

18% said "Elvis's guitar"
- No. (I got nothing here.)

9% said "Dwight D. Eisenhower"
- Perfect with Ike's forehead.A predecessor of the geodesic dome.

No one said "A Chevy"
72% got it right with "An atom"

According to The Associated Press, Belgium last week celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Atomium, an oddity of modern architecture touted as the "most astonishing building in the world." Built for the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels, the Atomium is a towering structure made up of nine giant aluminum-clad spheres linked with steel tubes. The sci-fi design represents an iron atom magnified 165 billion times.

Dammit! We were supposed to be wearing tunics and living in these structures by the year 2,000. Dude, where's my flying car?