Orlando Fringe Review: Hyde

Editor’s Note: The Annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival 2024  is being held now through Monday, May 27 at different venues in and around Loch Haven Park and downtown Orlando. Stay up to date on those Freeline Media reviews.

ORLANDO — Traditionally, stage and screen adaptations of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Gothic novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde have presented Dr. Henry Jekyll as intellectual, kindly, and a devoted physician. All of his dark, beastial suppressed urges toward violence and sexuality come out in his alter ego, Mr. Edward Hyde.

Now, what if Edward Hyde decided it was long past time to tell us this classic story from his perspective, and through a very odd stage show at that? The possible results could very well resemble the premise of PUSH Physical Theatre’s new show, which is being performed tonight at the Orlando Fringe Festival. THis evening marks the show’s final performance, and I highly recommend you catch it before PUSH heads off to its next Fringe Festival.

What is the Fringe Show Hyde?

Edward Hyde is the focus of this production, and he engages a lot with the audience — and I mean a lot. The setup is that he’s rented a theatre, donned some fancy clothes, and two hired actors to help tell the legendary story from his viewpoint. And there are two aspects of this show: Hyde and his two performers, and Hyde and the audience.

Both are equally fascinating, and radically different.

Hyde’s interactions with the audience are often side-splittingly funny. As you might expect from Edward Hyde, he’s loud, vulgar, impatient and hot tempered. He seems to find the audience annoying, and has no qualms about barking obscenely at them. At one point, he insists the audience play a game of Wink & Kill. I won’t give away how it’s played, but the results are a scream.

The same is true when the show keeps getting interrupted by cell phone calls from Hyde’s mother, and he’s not much more genteel to her than the audience itself. There’s another exceptionally funny audience participation moment when Hyde asks if anyone in the audience is a mother, and selects one to play his mother. As you can imagine, if you can find a clever audience member, there’s some fabulous comedic potential in this routine.

In-between these Hyde-vs-the-audience moments, Hyde and his two actors reenact his story through dancing, pantomime and silent movement that’s visually stunning much of the way. The three performers — Darren Stevenson, the founders of PUSH, Sydney Burrows and Ashley Jones — can hardly be faulted for any of the phenomenal acrobatic moves they make, resulting in some of the most graceful, athletic and gravity-defying performances I’ve seen at Fringe in years.

Hyde is certainly a distinctive and idiosyncratic production, one that balances its wicked sense of humor with a fabulous method of engaging with the audience, with some of the most visually captivating dance movement imaginable. As a big fan of the Stevenson novella, I heartily approve of this take on the story.

Where Can I See Hyde?

Hyde is being performed at the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival in the Peach Venue at the Orlando Family Stage, 1001 E. Princeton St., in Loch Haven Park. The show runs for 60 minutes and is geared toward audiences ages 13 and up. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or at Orlando Family Stage box office.

The play will have its final performance tonight at 8 p.m.

What is the Orlando Fringe Festival?

The Orlando Fringe Festival is the oldest Fringe in the nation. It was created in 1991 by Terry Olson, Andy Anthony and Rick Kunst, and held in 1992 in downtown Orlando.

The concept was simple: a festival featuring multiple theatrical shows, mostly done in venues in empty storefronts. In 2004, the festival started to relocate to Loch Haven Park, and from 2005 on, the festival has been held entirely in that park and in nearby Ivanhoe Village. It’s the longest running Fringe Festival in the United States, a 14-day festival held in the spring.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the terrifying book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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