Hal Coase’s ‘Jekyll’ speaks to the anxieties of the internet age
By Adam Tatelman, Contributor
A ridiculous comic book villain once said that a story everybody already knows the ending to is a worthless one. If that’s true, then what of the timeless tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—a story that’s endured for over a century on the page, stage, and screen? How to turn the old into something new without losing the meaning of the piece? There has already been a musical version—where do you go from there? There’s any number of answers to these questions. Douglas alum Madelyn Osborne’s answer is to stage Hal Coase’s Jekyll.
Madelyn has, by her own admission, been obsessed with Jekyll since she first saw it performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015. Since then, she’s been striving to get it produced in Canada. Five years later, Jekyll premieres here at Douglas College—and she is the director. Who says dreams don’t come true?
Jekyll is not Robert Louis Stevenson’s story, nor does Richard Mansfield feature as a grotesque figure of terror. Instead, a beautiful and revered Hyde wins the hearts and minds of millions. Where villainy once was confined to the misty backstreets of London, it now has a digital platform and a public face. It is not shunned, but beloved. This inversion is part of what drew Madelyn to the script so strongly: “even though they’ve never met,” she said, “or had any communication, these characters still believe that Hyde is this huge part of their lives—to a point that it’s personal. That’s the power that Hyde has over people.”
Madelyn believes, perhaps rightly, that Hal Coase’s vision of Hyde as an influential media maven speaks more to the anxieties of the internet age than the image of a hedonistic Quasimodo. “That’s the modern version of it,” she said. “The duality of the vulnerable, true side of a person’s life, and the way that we curate our lives on social media. We’re used to looking at a picture and saying that’s what I’m supposed to be rather than figuring it out for ourselves.”
Today, everyone creates their own Hyde. They are a legion of perfect pixelized faces, adrift in the digital sea. Immaculately cultivated slices of ourselves—snapshots of success without all that pesky real life to complicate getting there. Hyde knows our tastes and proclivities, keystrokes, and search terms. Hyde offers opinions, advice, recommended content, and targeted advertisements. Clicks are currency. Exposure is the product. Your mind is the market. Like, share, and subscribe.
How can we live truthfully in an age where lies of omission are the norm? How can we know what we need when the world’s most massive corporate entities make it their business to tell every single one of us what we should want? How can the human spirit survive in this synthetic half-light, slowly drowning itself in dopamine as it instantly gratifies each impulse with a mere flick of the trackpad? There are many answers to these questions. Madelyn’s is to stage Hal Coase’s Jekyll.
Date: March 13 to 20
Location: Studio Theatre at New West Campus
Time: Varies depending on date, range from 12 to 7:30 pm
Price: $20 general admission, $10 for students