Alternatives and final images
Characters: 2 Jekylls — 2 Hydes ?
Mr. Utterson — the teller of the tale, not unlike the narrator in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. It is through his eyes we see the horror of it all.
Lord Carew / The Good Girl’s Father
The Good Girl
The Bad Girl
[Note: Lines are intended as sketches, not precisely what the characters will say.]
House black. A single light comes up, focused on the door immediately downstage center. As little light as possible shines on the array of bottles and tubes behind the door. Utterson enters and stands on the lip of the stage in front of the OUTSIDE DOOR of the LABORATORY. He speaks directly to the audience. Actors are in current dress. The time is now,.
UTTERSON: Call me Utterson. By profession, I’m a lawyer. I do things properly. I don’t know if I’d called myself a “friend” of Dr. Henry Jekyll, though I suppose so. We’ve certainly spent some times together beyond what we needed to get out business done. I admit I like Henry, or Harry as he prefers to be called by those he knows beyond a casual acquaintance.
[Directly to audience) Now here you have an advantage over me. As I’m driveling on about whether or not I’m this man’s “friend,” you know that we’re talking about a mad scientist doctor who created a monster more horrible than Frankenstein. I mean at least Frankenstein was sorry about breaking the little girl’s neck, this guy enjoys doing evil. But you see, I don’t know this. You know about Dr. Jekyll sucking down a beaker of his potion and transforming into the wretched Mr. Hyde. Yes, I’ll find out. But so far you know a lot more about it than I do!
As we begin telling our story, I no nothing of Dr. Jekyll’s transformation. I only know that Dr. Jekyll has some rather strange ideas that Dr. Lanyon, a thoroughly impeccable man, consider pretty strange if not downright dangerous. I understand anything about the scientific mumbo-jumbo Dr. Jekyll spouts.
But what I do know and what is making me very nervous at the moment is a piece of paper Dr. Jekyll asked me to keep in my safe. Because I’m a lawyer, Dr. Jekyll asked me to keep it in my safe, “in case anything should happen,” he said. I asked him if I could open it and he agreed and I was shocked. He’s saying, in very odd but perfectly legal language, that one “Mr. Hyde” is supposed to get only his earthly wealth should he meet his demise.
What’s even more troubling is that he says that this Mr. Hyde is to get everything if Dr. Jekyll should simply not be heard from for three weeks. That’s insane! Who ever heard of giving everything you own over to some unknown person if you should happen to be gone for a few days?
Now most versions of this tale have Dr. Jekyll being a well-meaning doctor who is guilty of hubris, perhaps, but he’s not really a bad person. He doesn’t intend to create a monster personality that he can slip into whenever he wants to have some fun and slip out of and be undiscoverable, respectable, and, what’s most important, completely at rest with his own conscious: It’s not he who’s doing these awful things.
That seems awfully condescending to Dr. Jekyll. Perhaps it wasn’t a mistake at all. Maybe Dr. Jekyll knew exactly what he was doing all along. Perhaps he was quite knowingly making his pact with the Devil, just like Faust or Robert Johnson or at the crossroads or that fiddler dueling with satan for who could play the fastest. Could you beat the devil? Or join him?
In any case, I know nothing of this. To me, Mr. Hyde is simply someone I’ve never met, but also someone I’ve never heard by Harry so much as mention Mr. Hyde. Why should he suddenly be the beneficiary of Harry’s not inconsiderable wealth?
This Mr. Hyde must have some power over Harry. Is this Mr. Hyde is deviously blackmailing him? Seems awfully unlikely. Harry — Dr. Jekyll to you — of course, he’s always been a bit strange.. He might not be all there. I’m going to talk with Dr. Lanyon soon about just what might be going on with Dr. Jekyll. You’ll see. But I mustn’t get too far ahead of our story.
Besides, here comes Mr. Enfield now all worked about something to do with this door I’m standing in front of, but I let him tell it himself.
ENTER ENFIELD who grabs UTTERSON harshly.
ENFIELD: Do you know what just happened, right here, right at this door?
UTTERSON: I have no idea.
ENFIELD: [Furiously; looking at Utterson as if he were mad) How could you have no idea, it happened on this very place, right before your eyes.
UTTERSON: I must not have been here then.
ENFIELD: What does that mean???
UTTERSON: I must not have been here when it happened.
ENFIELD: You didn’t see the man trample the young girl?
UTTERSON: Of course not. [to audience] Did you see it? [pause] Of course not.
ENFIELD: Well, it happened all the same.
UTTERSON: What happened?
ENFIELD: A man, an ugly misshapen man, knocked down, perhaps in a rush, perhaps in fury, a young girl and then trampled over her body lying on the ground [etc. per story with getting the check signed by Dr. Jekyll…When Enfield finishes the story, he exits, leaving Utterson alone on stage.]
UTTERSON: Now of course, you’re ahead of us. Who are we? Mere characters. But there are things even you do not know. You have never been inside the mind of Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, not really. Perhaps we should…
You see, we all know, whether we admit it or not, that Dr. Jekyll’s right about one thing: we’ve all got good and evil in us. What if a potion in your hand could let the evil loose without making the good person in you feel the slightest guilt? And could let you get away with it, too? Take a sip.
Oh, I hear you snickering because you think you know the whole story. You don’t, not the story we’re going to tell. But I don’t even know that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person! But I aim to find out. Yes, curiosity can be a very dangerous thing.
Once Enfield finishes, Utterson again speaks to the audience. Well, you see, we actors drew straws for who could talk to you and I won. [laughs strangely] I should say that I got the longest straw, because,with all that’s going to happen to me, I’m not sure I didn’t get the short end of the stick in getting the long end of the straw, but we shall see.
But we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves. You see what you’ve just seen hasn’t happened yet. The evil Mr. Hyde doesn’t even exist yet. We’ve given you a little glimpse, just a tiny snapshot, of what a wretched creature is going to emerge from the kindly Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory. Because now we’d like you to meet Dr. Jekyll when he was like you and me: both good and evil locked up inside the same person. Well, in our case, inside two people. Why not? Don’t be confused, both this people are the high-minded scientist and doctor, Dr. Jekyll. It’s about time you met him.
[Lights up on full stage — Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory a world of test tubes and gurgling liquids] The two Dr. Jekyll’s sit, back to back, tied in chairs. Harry and Henry from first draft.
Utterson re-enters. [ponders] Dr. Jekyll thinks he wants to split good from evil in a person. Why? Does he envision, from the beginning, becoming Mr. Hyde? Does he want, from the very start to be Hyde? And what, of course, does “being Mr. Hyde” mean?
But let’s roll the tape back to beginning. The very beginning of our sordid little tale. Let’s let Dr. Jekyll himself, or as it were, “himselves”, let us in on what he had in mind. Enfield, leaves, opening the door to the laboratory, and in someway removing it from the scene so that we see revealing when lights come up full, the laboratory on the scene of the two Dr. Jekyll’s arguing about good and evil and the joys and dangers of separating them into separate beings.
Lights black out on the lab, and Utterson walks in from the back of the house, talking. If I only knew what Harry was going through and what he was doing, perhaps I could have helped. But I wonder if I would have? Then I’d never have known if he could do it, if he really could split the good from the evil.
Ah, it’s time to learn a bit of what Dr. Jekyll’s got at stake in all this. [Innocent Young Lady (looking innocent, but definitely alluring either easy) has entered SL but not crossed.] How can there be horror without innocence?This is Harry’s beloved. Nice enough girl I suppose, but
INNOCENT YOUNG LADY introduces herself, Utterson fading to the position she had had SL and watching her, almost leering.) She proceeds to complain bitterly to the audience of what a pain the ass it is to be treated by everyone as though she were pure as the driven snow.
next scene: Utterson finds out from Dr. Lanyon how strange Dr. Jekyll’s ideas really are from both a scientific and a moral point of view….
then: the TRANSFORMATION
then: Mr. HYDE and The Bad Girl
then: Hyde confronts Jekyll, accusing him of being a hypocrite
then: Good Girl TRANSFORMS in the laboratory.\
FINALLY: Utterson confronts HYDE and Good Girl-transformed-into-bad-girl and Utterson, determined to shoot Hyde but now realizing Hyde is Jekyll and confronted simultaneously with Good Girl transformed, takes the potion himself.
Key elements of the production
- No one should narrate. Let every character speak for themselves. Utterson, particularly, speaks for himself.
- There should be a singular Dr. Jekyll, Utterson, Enfield, Maid, Poole, Dr. Lanyon, Sir Danvers Carew. (Carew, Poole and Enfield could all be played by the same actor, but should clearly be quite distinct characters to the audience)
- The potion is a key ingredient, even more than the letters. It is utterly part of the ionization and the core meaning of the play. Dr. Jekyll willfully takes the potion that he knows has dangerous consequences in terms of science. He is crossing a line, not unlike delving into the atom. Stevenson is all about not saying. Here again he is not specifying anything about what troubled Dr. Lanyon. Utterson dully takes it as merely a scientific disagreement. It is clearly more than that to Lanyon. He is deeply troubled by how Dr. Jekyll is think, but he never says how.
- In his own mind, Dr. Jekyll is clear about what he is doing: He finds the conflict in his personality, his “imperious desire” to hold his head above others in wearing a “more than commonly grave countenance before the public” and his irrepressible “impatient gaiety of disposition, intolerable. He wants to let his lusts loose, dissociating them entirely from his righteous posture, even in his own mind. The reason this matters is not that it explains multiple personality disorders, though it does go a long way toward doing that, but that it is true of all of us in one way or another: We want to have our cake and…stay slim too! He want to allow all our lusts to run free and pay no consequences, either in reality or even in our own minds.
- If each actor becomes Hyde: From how this is portrayed to the audience: Does each other actor will play the part of Hyde or is it that their character has “drunk the Kool-Aid,” taken the potion, while retaining their original character. How will this be communicated to the audience. Is it ok if they don’t get what’s going on?
- This begs the question: What STORY our we telling, including the possibility of MULTIPLE STORIES: How a good man with some evil succumbs to EVIL? How an EVIL man becomes even more of a psychopath? How all people have both good and evil, society forces us to hide our impulses, some of which would actually do no harm but are restrained and repressed to keep people in their places, so that any release from societal and personal restraint leads to an explosion of extreme behavior, and would do so in anyone.
Expanding a bit here: Poole could easily get into the laboratory. (By the way, how are you thinking of this visually and where do we get a test-tube set up built? Maybe I would do this. Wish I knew how to build anything. Wonder if Skyler/Alistair can do something like this?) So we could see Poole take the potion.
- Each tells the tales from the character’s perspective, sees events from his own
Anyone coming to theater dressed as Jekyll / Hyde 1/2 price. If your costume works as BOTH Jekyll AND Hyde, admission free.