Allie Shapiro plays a character that was never in Robert Louis Stevenson’s original novella.
But as Elizabeth Ann Jelkes in the upcoming Persephone Productions adaptation Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, she is the one who recognizes that people cannot be purely good or only evil. It’s a hard concept to swallow when one thinks of certain historical figures.
However, Judaism has long recognized that all people must balance their inclinations between yetzer hara (the inclination to do evil) and yetzer hatov (to do good). The choice to go either way is a matter of free will, and this is what playwright Jeffrey Hatcher explores at Mainline Theatre, 3997 St. Laurent Blvd., April 16 to 26.
“The play asks if everybody has an infinite number of sides in different moments. It has more to do with who we choose to be, rather than what our nature is,” says director Chris Moore. “A lot of it is about compromise and grey areas.”
The action is set in 1883 London around the time of the novella’s writing. Victorian England was a nest of vices buried under the prim mores of the time.
Dr. Henry Jekyll (Alex Goldrich) decides to eradicate his inner lusts and violent thoughts with a mixture of drugs. Unfortunately, he releases rather than removes his darker side, played by the various other cast members, as they double up on their primary roles of colleague, attorney, witness and butler.
In this way, the playwright does not have both sides embodied in one actor, as is traditional. Jekyll and Hyde instead come up against one another in physical struggles that Moore choreographs. “Jekyll and Hyde place themselves as adversaries because neither of them wants to admit that they have elements of the other, which is probably at the core of most conflicts,” says Goldrich.
Shapiro is the romantic interest of the doppelgangers and finds herself in the midst of their clashes, as they literally sweep her off her feet.
“She’s the one character who truly sees past how Jekyll perceives Hyde. Jekyll sees good and evil as black and white, but she and Hyde are living examples that it’s not always the case. Humans are complex,” she says.
Shapiro comes to the role after having portrayed a sort of female Jekyll and Hyde in the person of Mme Arthenice in a Marivaux compilation titled The Islands of Love, staged by Concordia University in 2013.
“My character was an upper-class lady who transforms into a savage,” says Shapiro, who graduated in 2014 with a BFA in theatre and a minor in psychology.
Just a year out of theatre school, the 23-year-old has made her home in Montreal, travelling back to the United States for holidays to see her parents in Stamford, Conn.
She most recently modelled the title role of Rose in Rose Quartz after her screen idol Lauren Bacall for Raise the Stakes/Jubilee Theatre and performed the small but key role of Margaret in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at Montreal’s Théâtre Ste-Catherine.
Goldrich, 35, is a Maritimer from Saint John, N.B.
Moore has been artistic director of Persephone since taking over in 2013 from Gabrielle Soskin, whom he directed in Martha Blum/Geoffrey Ursell’s touching Holocaust drama The Walnut Tree.
His co-direction with Soskin of Spring Awakening went on to raves last October as a Centaur Theatre Brave New Looks production. “When I chose Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it grabbed me from the outset. It becomes very suspenseful and intense,” Moore says.
He is continuing the company’s mandate to employ emerging theatre artists, and Shapiro and Goldrich are grateful for the opportunity. Tickets for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are available at 514-849-3378 or at www.persephoneproductions.org.