Sigmund Freud called it the ego and the id. Obi-Wan Kenobi called it the light side and the dark side of the force. Those werewolves in “Twilight” know the deal. Everybody’s got a dark side — and that’s nowhere better explained than in the classic 1886 novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” by Robert Louis Stevenson.
The story of a mild-mannered Victorian doctor and his rather less socially adept alter ego has resonated across the decades, inspiring multiple film and theatrical adaptations. Scott R.C. Levy of the Penobscot Theatre Company chose Jeffrey Hatcher’s fast-paced, intense 2008 adaptation of the story to stage as the second production of the theater’s 2010-11 season. Besides a few notable plot differences — a female romantic interest, to start with — Hatcher’s script calls for one actor to play Jekyll and four to play Hyde.
“The script is such a variation on the original story,” said Levy, who directs this production, which will open with previews on Wednesday, Oct. 20. “The conceit of having multiple actors as Hyde is one really fascinating part. Then there’s the fact that it’s really not so much a monster story as it is a detective story with a heavy psychological thriller aspect. It’s a very fresh telling, very modern and inventive.”
Bangor actor Allen Adams plays Dr. Jekyll, while locals and PTC regulars Jeri Misler, Arthur Morison and Bernard Hope join New York actor Drake Andrew as all four Mr. Hydes, as well as an array of other supporting characters. Christie Robinson rounds out the cast as Jekyll’s love interest, Elizabeth.
“Each of the actors is really trying to find the Hyde inside them,” said Adams, last seen in PTC’s “The Underpants” and Ten Bucks Theatre’s “Romeo and Juliet.” “Everybody’s got their own unique thing. I’ve struggled with it with my own character. I’ve had to find a way to keep the two separate entities, but still find a way to bring them together. Jekyll isn’t a complete milquetoast, and Hyde isn’t a total monster.”
As Levy described, the play combines a little horror, a little intrigue and some interesting psychological twists and turns into one fun package.
“It’s got sex and violence and all that stuff. It’s an adult show,” he said. “It’s not something you want to bring your 10-year-old to. But it’s perfect Halloween fun.”
The set, designed by Boston-based Erik D. Diaz, is a split-level design inspired by the Crystal Palace, the all-glass structure in London in the 19th century. Lighting, so important in such an atmospheric show, is by longtime PTC designer Jonathan Spencer, based out of New York. Costumes, created by Connecticut-based Jimmy Johansmeyer, are inspired by steampunk, the literary movement that combines a Victorian-era look and feel with 21st century sensibilities. Steampunk informs much of PTC’s “Jekyll and Hyde.”
“It kind of exists out of time, in some ways, like the HBO series ‘Deadwood’ and ‘Carnivale.’ It’s both of its time and of our time today,” said Levy. “It’s set in the 1880s, but it’s informed by contemporary attitudes. It’s a Victorian story for a 21st century audience.”
The theater will hold a full day of activities Saturday, October 30, to coincide with other Halloween events in downtown Bangor. At 2 p.m., a screening of the silent film version of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” will be shown. It will feature live piano accompaniment by 93-year-old Bangor resident Harry Weiss. At 5 p.m., the East Coast Ghost Trackers will hold the premiere screening of their pilot television episode, featuring ghost tracking at Fort Knox in Bucksport. Tickets are free, but require a reservation. Additional activities, including downtown trick-or-treating and costume parades, still are being developed.
The theater will hold a free discussion of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella at the Bangor Opera House from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 26. Free copies of the novella will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Tickets for all performances to Penobscot Theatre’s production of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” which opens in previews on Oct. 20 and runs each week through Nov. 7, are available for purchase through the theater’s website, ; by phone at 942-3333; or in person at the Bangor Opera House, 131 Main St., downtown Bangor.