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Theatre Review: Chemical Imbalance

  

"Chemical Imbalance" is a play about a man with a split personality – one side polite and well-educated, the other malevolent and cruel. That tension fuels this campy comedy, which spoofs the clichés of Gothic melodrama. The actors employ a lot of physical comedy in this outdoor production from the Main Street Theatre Works in Jackson.

Yes, Mr. Hyde is prowling the dark streets of London, beating up anyone who gets in his way. But when the elixir wears off, Hyde changes back into the polite Dr. Jekyll.

The thing is, Jekyll actually enjoys releasing his inner brute. That’s how Robert Louis Stevenson depicted Jekyll in 1886, and that’s the way Jekyll talks in this play.

In one scene he explains how he uses chemistry to separate good from evil, then ponders "who on earth would want to become Pure Evil?"  Who indeed!

Listen to the play Excerpt

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Beneath this show’s mocking satire, the play raises questions about the morality of the British dominating Scotland, Ireland and the world. In another scene, Jekyll and Lady Tockmortonshire debate barbarism, civilization, conquest and education.

Listen to the play excerpt

And then it’s back to goofy satire, as Jekyll becomes Hyde and roams the stage with an oversized meat cleaver, spoofing every cheesy movie ever made from this story, with “meat pie” jokes referencing “Sweeney Todd.”

Physical antics and pop culture caricature are served with a little side dish of historical/political awareness – giving this play a little extra zip as compared to the more predictable summer shows. 

The Main Street Theatre Works production of “Chemical Imbalance” continues through July 18 at the Kennedy Mine Amphitheater in Jackson.

You might also enjoy this NPR feature about Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in 1886.