PICT Clas­sic Theatre of­fers ‘ Dr. Jekyll’ ra­dio thriller

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Magazine & Pets - By Diana Nel­son Jones Diana Nel­son Jones: djones@ post- gazette. com.

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.”

PICT Clas­sic Theatre

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.

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