“Chemical Imbalance” by Lauren Wilson is, according to director A.J. Kalanick, a “farmedy.” Part farce, part comedy. Dark comedy.
It is, after all, the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but with some pretty ridiculous comedic moments tossed in.
To start, the two stately Victorian matriarchs, Euphronia Jekyll and Lady Throckmortonshire, are played by men. Large men. Manly men. Kevin Cates and Jim McRae embrace their feminine roles with dignified gusto – all falsetto and high-necked lace with pinky fingers delightfully raised on cue.
As the socially inept Dr. Henry Jekyll, Adam Roebling serves up a big plate of physical anguish when he transforms into Mr. Hyde. The good doctor is fervent in his quest to isolate the good and the evil in the human race, even using himself as the guinea pig.
As expected, it doesn’t end well. In fact, the consequences are murderous.
Dr. Jekyll’s cousin, Xavier Utterson, desperately tries to keep dear Henry out of trouble with the law and the ladies to no avail. He’s much too small, much too cautious and much too humane.
Broderick John Cornett, as Xavier, delivers outstanding comedic timing and physicality in his role, earning some of the biggest laughs of the show. Well deserved laughs – he’s a human Gumby on stage.
DeLaney Kay Hardy, as the doctor’s sister, Ambrosia, is an energetic force in this ensemble cast. She’s determined to marry her nerdy brother off to the beautiful Rosaminda Dewthistle “before his hair falls out.” Kelsey Keating keeps the mystery of Rosaminda strong throughout the performance, even as we wonder why she would want to marry the stuttering Dr. Jekyll.
Mr. Kalanick acknowledges that the actors in the cast are fairly “young in their acting careers, with little stylistic experience.” The first act of the matinee performance I watched exhibited that, with long gaps in reaction.
However, the script is designed to establish the characters and plot in the first act to ultimately deliver the pay-off in the second act. And it does. “Chemical Imbalance” at Billings Studio Theatre evades the ghoulish and goes for the comedy.
“Chemical Imbalance” runs through May 17 at Billings Studio Theatre. Call 248-1141 for reservations.