The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Holmes

Devised by the cast and crew.
Directed by Martin French

A review by Brian Kennedy

Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved.

With good pacing and an excellent mix of humor and suspense, Wayward Actors Company and Theatre Reprise have a must-see show in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes

The Martin French-directed production is an original script by the ensemble, along with the creative team of French, Hannah Hoopingarner, and Michelle Lori created based on Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle’s works. In this well-written show, based in 1890s London, Mr. Holmes (Mark Merk) and his longtime associate Dr. Watson (Marc McHone) are called upon to investigate the murder of a bishop. During the initial investigation, they are introduced to Dr. Jekyll (Annie Bulleit), a “volunteer coroner.” 

Mr. Holmes is intelligent but self-absorbed, very good at figuring out clues but not so much with social skills. Merk plays this multi-layered character confidently, sometimes for laughs, as with his fake Belgian accent, and suspense, especially when he identifies and then confronts the killer. 

Dr. Watson is the more down-to-earth of the duo, supporting Holmes’ efforts while also keeping his sometimes outlandish methods in check. While essentially acting as the straight man of the duo, Watson is also an intelligent interrogator, all of which McHone expertly plays. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Jekyll is seemingly caring about people, especially the women of Whitechapel, a neighborhood where an evening of pleasure for men can be, at the least, brutal, and, at most, deadly for the women. Although she doesn’t attempt an accent, Bulleit shows more than adequate care for the women. This is especially evident during a monologue at the beginning of Act II when her frustrations over their treatment boil over effectively while talking with Holmes and Watson.

Of course, there is no Jekyll without Hyde, here played by Vidalia Unwin. However, there are questions as to who Hyde really is. Is Hyde really Jekyll after swallowing a potion? Is she one of the brothel workers? Does she really exist? Whatever the answer, Unwin plays Hyde with a serious and sinister attitude that works incredibly well.

This show, played on a mostly bare stage save for tables and chairs brought in and out as the scenes required, would not be complete without the rest of the ensemble. Michael Guarnieri, Bailey Preston, and Kim Sanders, each play multiple characters, showcasing the right amount of humor and seriousness needed for these roles. 

Really, there was plenty to like. The well-written script had plenty of twists and turns that kept the audience guessing throughout the play. The pacing was what it needed to be, whether it was brisk, slowed down, or even a couple of deliberate awkward pauses. The cast played their roles with confidence both on stage and out in the audience. (If you’re sitting in the front and middle, watch out for them.) 

Despite some not-uncommon opening night hiccups, it was a wonderful start for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Holmes

October 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, & 15 @ 7:30 pm

Wayward Actors Company & Theatre Reprise  
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205

Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for and from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.