Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll & Hyde Play

by Michael Martin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday January 12, 2010

Lindsey Forgey and Laura Turnbull in Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play, which continues through February 7 at Caldwell Theatre in  Boca Raton
Lindsey Forgey and Laura Turnbull in Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play, which continues through February 7 at Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton  

The 2009-2010 season at the Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton, with newly appointed artistic director Clive Cholerton at the helm, has already included an array of artfully chosen pieces ranging from a musical featuring dance to straight theatre.

Rounding out the current season, Cholerton has selected Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play as the entrant to fill the "comedy" category.

The play is listed as a farce by playwright Lauren Wilson with a setting described as, "Victorian England of flamboyant proportions." These specificities make way for an evening filled with tongue-in-cheek asides, and over-the-top eccentricities.

From the start, scenic director Tim Bennett abandons reality by providing set pieces, curtains, and props that are strictly two dimensional, establishing an almost cartoonish air.

Costume designer Alberto Arroyo continues with Victorian sleeves that are so hugely puffy, they seem to require their own zip codes. Some wigs even mirror the outrageousness of Marge Simpson.

Wilson's words are just as silly as she attempts to present the classic story of Dr. Jekyll's metamorphosis into his murderous alter ego of Mr. Hyde as a comedic romp.

For the nearly dozen roles, Cholerton has cast some of South Florida's brightest comedic actors, with multi-Carbonnel Award winners and nominees among them.

Thus, the ingredients for a lively frolic through a fabled story exist, yet the mixture produces a final product beset by a bland taste.

As Henry Jekyll, Tom Wahl masterfully differentiates his two characters, appropriately bestowing upon each their own idiosyncratic behavior. John Felix is perfectly ridiculous as Lady Throckmortonshire, and Wynn Harmon flawlessly assumes the second fiddle role of Xavier Utterson, Jekyll's cousin and cohort.

Unfortunately, despite the strong performances from the cast, Cholerton's direction quickly rises to, and then hovers at one level of anxiety, thus often appearing as flat as the two-dimensional set on which the production is staged.

Wilson's loquacious writing recalls a time gone by when antic filled tomfoolery marked the budding careers of great comedy teams like The Marx Brothers, and The Three Stooges. Over the years, however, audiences have become more sophisticated, necessitating a different take on old school humor in order to maintain interest.

Though set, costumes, and cast appear to be in sync for the making of a full night of hilarity, truly clever "funny" seems to only arrive in bits and pieces, rendering the evening a bit imbalanced, as the title implies.

Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll and Hyde Play continues through February 7 at Caldwell Theatre, 7901 N Federal Hwy, Boca Raton. For more information, please visit the website.

Michael Martin has been an active member of Actors' Equity for over 20 years. As a professional actor, he has toured many parts of the US and the world. Originally from St. Louis, he now resides in Miami.