PICT Classic Theatre offers ‘ Dr. Jekyll’ radio thriller
PICT Classic Theatre opened a new play this week, and you can watch it live, sort of.
“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll,” a new radio play performed by the group formerly known as Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre, became available Thursday and continues through Oct. 31 at picttheatre. org. The cost is $ 13.95, and patrons have 72 hours to listen.
Alan Stanford, PICT’s artistic and executive director, wrote the script for nine actors, who recorded the play over two weeks at WQED studios in Oakland, with Plexiglas cubicles separating them.
“The notion of a play reading with the facility of Zoom works on levels such as conferencing, but I’m not comfortable with it as a methodology for theater,” he said. “You can’t get a consistency and actors playing off of each other.
“It may sound strange, but radio is one of the best ways to see a play. It demands your imagination.”
He cited the example of Orson Welles’ “The War of the Worlds,” a radio drama so real that it famously panicked American listeners who believed they were under attack by aliens. When the BBC introduced television dramas in the 1950s, a listener told an interviewer she was disappointed, said Mr. Sanford.
“I much prefer it on the wireless,” she said.
Radio has been entertaining people in their homes for nearly a century. In the United Kingdom, a soap opera called “The Archers” got its start on radio after World War II.
“I remember the great days of radio drama and have done a lot of it in Ireland,” said Mr. Stanford, whose 50- year career as actor, director and writer includes founding Ireland’s Second Age Theatre Company. “I thought it might be a way for us to go.”
For years, he had been working on adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” “So I thought, ‘ Let’s try this one.’”
His script is an adaptation of the horror genre “more concerned
with the psychological aspect, not as much what happens but why.”
He added two scenes at the beginning that are not in the 1886 book.
“It is a variation of a theme, but we are following the storyline and concept.”
In the new version, Tony Bingham stars as Dr. Henry Jekyll. The music was recorded by Reed Allan Worth playing five instruments and creating sound effects. The sound mix and design was completed by Kris Buggey to “magical” effect, Mr. Stanford said.
A Christmas season follow- up is planned; PICT Classic Theatre will present “A Christmas Carol” in December.
The pandemic has forced this adaptive approach to theater, Mr. Stanford said, but the play’s still the thing.
“Theater will be around forever. It has been dying for hundreds of years,” but it never does, he said.
“When people give this [ mode] a try or a couple of tries, I’m hoping they will enjoy it.”
Director Alan Stanford checks the sound booth before a rehearsal of "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll," which was recorded by PICT Classic Theatre at WQED studios and is now available as a radio drama.