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One man, two personalities

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Entertainment,Barbara Mackay

When Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" was published in 1886, it sparked a new way of looking at the human psyche and inspired the term "split personality." Now Synetic Theater has taken Stevenson's novel about a good scientist who discovers an evil streak within himself and created a "Jekyll & Hyde" without words.

Dr. Jekyll is a scientist who uses a collection of artificially intelligent human-mechanical-hybrids in an effort to reveal secrets of the soul. At the start of the play, Jekyll (Alex Mills) is a "normal" man who, after a ball, proposes to his fiancee (Brittany O'Grady).

But after the ball, Jekyll and his friend Lanyon (Peter Pereyra) see a stripper (Rebecca Hausman) getting mugged. Lanyon chases her attacker. Jekyll helps the girl and rebuffs her advances. Later that night, however, the memory of the stripper tortures Jekyll and he decides to test his medicine on himself, in the hopes of expunging all "evil" thoughts from his mind.

But the experiment fails and the medicine instead unleashes the thoroughly maniacal Hyde. Throughout the rest of the play, Hyde is in charge almost all the time, making the action crazier and bloodier until the final wedding scene, which is a near-total massacre.

Onstage
'Jekyll & Hyde'
Where: Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington
When: Through Oct. 21
Info: $35 to $55; 800-494-8497; synetictheater.org

The direction, by Paata Tsikurishvili, is perfectly paced, although certain scenes are repeated a few too many times. But there is a flaw at the center of the adaptation by Nathan Weinberger and Tsikurishvili, who wanted this play to illustrate the technology that has taken over our lives. But ultimately the central story has not changed. Although it is about a technocrat, this tale is still primarily about the struggle between good and evil.

Mills is brilliant as Jekyll/Hyde. If you have seen any of his skills as a dancer in past Synetic productions, you won't be surprised by his extraordinary balletic movements, his ability to rise far off the stage, arching his back, as if his rib-cage were being pulled by an invisible string, before he straightens up and lands silently.

Mills' differentiation between the moralistic Dr. Jekyll and the lascivious Mr. Hyde is impressive. And his inability to keep Hyde from taking over, his hands turning into claws, is chilling.

Pereyra creates an excellent friend, concerned throughout about Jekyll's welfare. Darren Marquardt is imposing as the fiancee's father. The ensemble, who double as Jekyll's humanoids and the brothel's inhabitants, are all excellent dancers, choreographed smoothly by Irina Tsikurishvili.

Chelsey Schuller's imaginatively creepy costumes for the humanoids make them look like immense, four-legged insects. Daniel Pinha's set is a bi-level space full of computer screens, bubble lights and vertical poles, the perfect high-tech environment for Mills to work his magic.

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