Pictured Above: In rehearsal for “Chemical Imbalance.”
There are plenty of excursions on the East End this October that are bound to scare you, but if the horror of the real world is too much, take heart, because the Boots on the Ground theater company is launching a new take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Jekyll & Hyde” story that promises to scare you silly.
“This farce is going to be a good time,” says director Mark Heidemann of “Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll & Hyde Play,” the horror farce the company is putting up at the Southampton Cultural Center Oct. 14 through Oct. 30. “It’s almost like farce is one step beyond ultra-scary. It just goes to being ridiculous.”
Mr. Heidemann, who directed the company’s production of “The Agitators” this spring, about the friendship between feminist and abolitionist icons Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, said he and Boots on the Ground founder Bonnie Grice picked this script — which is in keeping with the company’s philosophy of bringing historical periods to life — because “It seemed to speak to so many things for right now. We didn’t waffle. We knew immediately that folks were going to have a good time.”
“Everybody’s familiar with the whole idea of the Jekyll and Hyde scenario of the good and evil with a person, but this play is also a great little commentary on the world, on patriarchy, colonialism and western civilization in general,” says Mr. Heidemann. “The playwright, Lauren Wilson, totally gets farce. She’s an actor, and she’s obviously done farce. It’s really, really well executed.”
“With comedy, you might need to get the timing down on what you’re saying, but with farce, everybody is moving, all the time. You have to make sure that not only are the actors reaching their marks, but they’re coordinating going in and out of doors, or if one person pops down under a piece of furniture another has to pop up at the same time,” he added. “It’s almost like dance in a lot of ways — dancing with verbal comedy. It’s very orchestrated and very different than comedy or drama. It has to be a thrill ride.”
As he was reading the play, Mr. Heidemann could envision several local actors who he thought would be perfect for the roles, and he set to work early wooing them to the script.
“Almost all of them, as soon as they read it, said ‘I’ve gotta do this,'” he said. “It’s such a physical show, and it’s something actors don’t get to do every day.”
Colin Palmer stars as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with Bonnie Grice as Euphronia Jekyll, Zoe Richardson as Ambrosia Jekyll, Esmeralda Cabrera as Rosamunda Dewthistle, Christian Lepore as Lady Throckmortonshire, Bela Gogiashvili as Calliope/Penelope, Tom Gregory as Xavier Utterson and the lieutenant, Gerri Wilson as Ivy, Nick Auletti as Plodgett and Fred Nydegger as the constable.
“It’s really a who’s who of people in the theater world on the East End,” he said. “It’s almost like an all-star cast for us. I’m hoping people really get to see just how talented these local actors really are. I almost feel like we’re in a renaissance for local theater.”
The set design is by Kevin Shea, who built the Long Island Green Dome in Calverton, the largest residential geodesic dome in the country, who “jumped in with both feet and totally embraced the idea” of this production, which also makes good use of the professional lighting effects in the Cultural Center’s theater. Ms. Grice, who also produced this show, is a longtime collector and curator of Victorian costumes, provides the costuming, which has become one of her signature contributions to Boots on the Ground’s productions.
Mr. Heidemann hopes this production will inspire audiences to imagine Boots on the Ground growing as the resident theater company in the upcoming years — the company was just literally getting its feet on the ground at the start of the pandemic.
“When people walk away, we hope they will say ‘that was really funny. It’ll be really fresh. It’s very unique in its own way,” he said.
The Southampton Cultural Center is at 25 Pond Lane in Southampton Village. Showtimes for “Chemical Imbalance” are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. from Oct. 14 through 30. Tickets are $35 for general admission and $25 for students under the age of 21, and are available online here.