Rabbit Hole Ensemble applies a minimalist approach to theater. The focus is on the performer, with particular emphasis on physicality and voice. The company brings this unique style to The Transformation of Dr. Jekyll, a curious rendering of Robert Louis Stevenson's timeless horror classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Created by Rabbit Hole, the stripped-down production reimagines the story of Dr. Henry Jekyll as he explores a world of rough sex and violence. His transformation from mild-mannered philanthropist to out-of-control murderer is chronicled in his visits to prostitutes, which quickly escalate from violent to deadly. As the police close in on him, Jekyll grows increasingly desperate and reckless.
Paul Daily captures Jekyll's inner turmoil, perfectly embodying his tortured journey into madness. Daily contorts his body, shades his voice, and displays the physical and emotional pain of the character's transformation. Amanda Broomell and Emily Hartford are excellent as Jekyll's many foils. Broomell camps it up as the inspector hot on Jekyll's murderous trail, going for over-the-top, PBS-style mystery sleuthing. Hartford is perfect as the clueless ingénue hopelessly devoted to Jekyll despite his disposition toward things most unsavory. Both actresses are also dizzyingly funny as society matrons whom Jekyll encounters throughout the show.
With minimal props and no set, Edward Elefterion's direction remains true to the company's "theater of essence" approach. Under his guidance, the actors are the sole focus, and Broomell and Hartford voice the production's many sound effects with great success. Elefterion wisely spotlights the humor amid the pathos, creating a particularly hilarious scene involving shadow puppets.
Ultimately, the story never takes off, despite the strong performances and direction. Like the group's recent offering, The Siblings, at the Midtown International Theater Festival last month, Dr. Jekyll is too much a concept. It would be interesting to see the company apply its stylings to an established play. Rabbit Hole Ensemble is clearly worth keeping an eye on; one just hopes for better material that it can sink its teeth into.