Monday, April 27, 2009

I was wary of contemporary theater after a man stripped down to a giant bird costume last season, smashing a reasonable play into postmodern oblivion -- but I was willing to risk it for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (I don't really know what postmodern means in theater terms, but I'm going to hope it applies here because I like how it sounds.)

I love the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I remember reading the book jacket when I was a kid, and couldn't believe that this was an old story, that something so scandalous and so true-feeling was written by some olde timey guy with an enormous mustache. I'm not sure if actually read the book or not, any more than I remember my stacks of Nancy Drew and Baby-Sitters Club. But I was smitten with the story, and if I never saw more than a mid-90s film version, I was still a devotee of the idea that the meek and mild-mannered might be terrorists in their off hours.

The ACT production added a more substantial female character (none in the book) and Mr. Hyde was played by all the other actors in turn. The latter is the interpretive detail that made me hesitate, but the execution was seamless and effective. It's hard now to imagine the same Mr. Hyde as acted by one actor, or even by the same actor as played Dr Jekyll.

I don't know that Hyde really seemed more multifaceted because of the multiple actors varying portrayals -- one good actor could have accomplished this. What if did give was a disjointed, loopy feeling you might expect from opium-induced schizophrenia, and which highlighted the muddled nature of the story's moral message. It was all very clean on the surface, spare set and costumes, clear articulate dialogue, but very mixed-up when you had to follow Hyde's actions and thoughts. The character was elusive, beyond human.

Dr. Jekyll could have been simplistic in comparison, a one-dimensional goody-two-shoes foil for the complexity of our darker desires, etc. But the actor was appealingly awkward at times, convincingly desperate, and increasingly morally ambiguous. He may be The Good One, but he's incredibly flawed. His face was somehow perfect for the role, kinda young and weak and English-looking.

I love it, but I don't personally relate to the story like I did as a kid. I wanted to wreak havoc, to have immense, unsuspected power over people, didn't want to be pigeonholed as a well-behaved Jekyll unless it meant my hidden deviousness was that much more poignant. The story represented possibilities of adventure. Now, it is much more frightening to think that I might unwillingly harbor instincts toward evil; that the Hyde in us is not manifested through voluntary trouble-making but through unintentional malicious actions. I didn't get this when I was a kid -- that the story was about uncontrolled madness, not bad behavior. It's this that makes the story frightening.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

That's the news from Washington.

Two unfortunate Washington stories on the front of today. A second-generation candymaker in Leavenworth burnt his Alpine-themed shoppe to the ground with kerosene lamps, sugar-scented smoke billowing from the hills, handwrittten recipes charred like a marshmallow over the fire. Ironically, the store had been particularly profitable recently, thanks to recession-driven need for cheap indulgence.

The second story was far worse. A man, 34, discovered his wife was leaving him and killed their five kids, 7-16, then himself. The daughter girl who helped him discover his wife's infidelity was 16, conceived when the man was 18 and the mother 13. I can't think of words to describe the tragedy of this woman's life -- impregnated at 13 by an older man, tied to the trailer park for 16 years, to attempt some escape at the age of 29 or 30 that leads to the murder of your five children and the suicide of your husband. The deaths themselves are a horror, undoubtedly, and maybe she should be considered lucky to not be among the dead. She certainly doesn't seem lucky to be alive, though.

A comment on the said the mother should share some of the blame -- that she was "out galavanting with other men when her kids were at home and needed some parenting." I make no excuses for the woman's flaws and failures -- I'm sure she had many. But the percent of blame I'd place on the mother in this scenario is an invisible sliver of a pie cart occupied primarily by the father, with a solid second wedge going to oppressive social dynamics.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I just read a fashion memoir written by a 19-year old. "Peaches Geldof looks back at her unforgettable wardrobe woes, and explains how she finally got it together." Finally got it together? For fucks sake, she's not even finished with puberty yet.

I realize that in the world of young fashion she is some sort of ... not icon, but maybe role model. If she had recounted the last couple of years with some modesty or irreverence, and acknowledgment that at 19 one has not yet actually discovered ones' self, I could respect the self-indulgent self-reflection. But she begins her fashion journey a bit too young to take seriously ("By 2002, I was a carefree 12-year old." Is there any reason on earth anyone would care if a 12-year old wore pink checkered shorts? No. Well, maybe other 12-year-olds.), and she offers no actual reflection on her identity or personal development, just a timeline of trends she passed through. I'm sure if I were 15 (and rich enough to actually shop for my own clothes), I'd really love the piece. Unfortunately, I am 25, and it makes me want to trade my free subscription to Nylon for Better Homes and Gardens.

Friday, April 3, 2009