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Central Works completes a “Gothic Thrillogy” with Robert Louis Stevenson: Jekyll and Hyde  (Download PDF)

Central Works 2016 Season continues on May 14th with the world premiere of Gary Grave’s Robert Louis Stevenson: Jekyll and Hyde (May 14 to June 12). Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson is known worldwide for his Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and the novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In this production, Stevenson awakens from a fever dream that unleashes a dreadful tale from the deep unconscious recesses of his mind. Robert Louis Stevenson: Jekyll and Hyde is a Central Works Method play based on Stevenson’s classic tale of good and evil. Following Central Works’ productions Dracula Inquest (2014) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (2015), Robert Louis Stevenson: Jekyll and Hyde completes a Gothic trilogy created by the company, guided by the Graves/Zvaifler team.

In a cottage on the stormy English seacoast, Stevenson has a dark, awful dream that gives birth to a fully formed idea for a new novel that will allow him to realize his literary ambitions. Louis reveals the dream in intimate, uncompromising detail to his beloved, volatile, and very eccentric wife, Fanny. Horrified by the dark metaphor of the monstrous tale, and fearful of the scandalous revelations it contains about her husband, Fanny begs him not to write the book. Louis is passionately committed to pursuing “the truth” in his writing, no matter what the consequences. Fanny is worried about paying the bills (and what comes after for her, should her ailing husband expire). She begs him not to write the book, and threatens to destroy it if he does. All hangs in the balance if Louis gives himself over to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

“There’s a story that Stevenson wrote ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ in a sort of mad fever dream in just three days,” says playwright, Gary Graves. “The first person he read the story to was his wife, Fanny Osbourne Stevenson. But Fanny criticized the draft. Allegedly, she accused him of ‘missing the point of the allegory.’ Stevenson flew into a rage and the two of them had an ‘almighty row’ about it that concluded with Stevenson heaving the manuscript into the fireplace where it burned to ashes. The story we know is the second draft, the revised version. I was fascinated with questions about what might have been in the first draft, and what the big fight might have been about. What exactly is ‘the allegory’ in Jekyll and Hyde?”

Robert Louis Stevenson: Jekyll and Hyde was created using the Central Works Method of collaborative play development. Directed by Jan Zvaifler, it features actors Brian Herndon* and Danielle Levin; with costumes by Tammy Berlin, sound by Gregory Scharpen, and props by Debbie Shelley. (*member AEA)

Robert Louis Stevenson: Jekyll and Hyde
Written by Gary Graves – A Central Works Method Play
Directed by Jan Zvaifler
May 14–Jun 12 (Previews May 12 & 13)
The Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley.
Performances: Thurs., Fri.& Sat. 8 pm, Sun. 5 pm (Post-show Talk-backs: Feb 23 & Mar 13)
Ticket prices: $30 online at, $30–$15 sliding scale at the door
Previews and Thursdays: pay-what-you-can at the door
Tickets: 510.558.1381 or

On Background:The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde the novella and this production.

Published in 1886, the story precedes, even anticipates both Freud’s explorations of the unconscious, as well as the famous murders of Jack the Ripper, according to Graves. “Stevenson claimed the story came to him directly from his unconsciousness, presenting itself to him in a series of dreams. He was experimenting with tapping into his unconscious in his writing through the exploration of his dreams. Two years after the publication of the book, Jack the Ripper began his horrifying crime spree. A popular version of Jekyll and Hyde was already playing on a London stage at the time, and the play had to be closed because of its disturbing resonance with the awful murders. The two—Jack the Ripper and Hyde–have often associated together ever since, though almost nothing in Stevenson’s book is revealed about Hyde’s so-called ‘terrible Crimes.’

“Stevenson’s story, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has generated a huge volume of scholarship and analysis. It has been interpreted as an allegory for late Victorian era homosexuality, as a parable of addiction, as a metaphor for the conflict between father and son, and a myriad other interpretations” remarks playwright,Gary Graves. “For me, the addiction theme is central. There is evidence Stevenson was experimenting with a new drug called ‘cocaine’ when he wrote the book, a drug with addictive powers far better understood today than when it appeared in the 1880s. Was Stevenson addicted to a mysterious powder that fueled his writing but was making a monster of him? What was the big fight with Fanny about? Why did Stevenson burn the manuscript? What was in it? The play wrestles with these questions, and poses Fanny and her husband with some very difficult choices to make.”


GARY GRAVES is a playwright and director living in the Bay Area. Since 1998, he has been a resident playwright and company co-director at Central Works and has been a part of developing 50 world premiere productions with the company, many of which he has either written and/or directed. Titles of plays he has written include: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Dracula Inquest, Lion and the Fox, Red Virgin, Richard the First (a trilogy), Machiavelli’s The Prince, Achilles and Patroklos, The Grand Inquisitor, Chekhov’s The Duel, Misanthrope, Mata Hari, and Penelope’s Odyssey. Dr. Graves received an MFA in playwriting from Southern Illinois University, a PhD in directing from UC Berkeley, and teaches playwriting at the Berkeley Rep School of Theater. He also developed and leads the Central Works Writers Workshop, an ongoing commissioning program that develops new works.

JAN ZVAIFLER is a founding member of Central Works, and its co-director along with Gary Graves. Her company collaborations over the past quarter century encompassed acting, directing and producing. More recent directing credits include Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Dracula Inquest, Lion and the Fox, Richard the First (a trilogy), The Grand Inquisitor and The Education of a Rake. She was last seen on the Central Works stage in Ada and the Memory Engine. Ms. Zvaifler studied at UC Berkeley and the Guildford School of Music and Theater, is company representative for the Berkeley Cultural Trust and a member of the Emeryville Artists Coop, and sat on the selection committee for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival for 7 years.

BRIAN HERNDON (Robert Louis Stevenson) makes his debut at Central Works with this production. He has had the pleasure of portraying Danielle Levin’s husband on several occasions, including Jane Austen’s Emma at TheatreWorks and as a company member of PlayGround. Favorite roles include Mortimer in Failure: A Love Story at Marin Theatre Company, Edward Gant in Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness at Shotgun Players, and Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors with SF Shakes. Some of the other companies with which he has worked include: 42nd Street Moon, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, New Conservatory Theatre, Old Globe, Pacific Rep, San Jose Stage Company. He teaches at Odyssey Middle School in San Mateo and is a proud AEA member.

DANIELLE LEVIN (Fanny Vandergrift Osbourne Stevenson) also makes her Central Works debut with Robert Lewis Stevenson: Jekyll and Hyde. Recent Bay Area productions include strangers, babies with Shotgun Players, Emilie, La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight, and The Language Archive – the last two with Symmetry Theatre Company, where Danielle is an Associate Artist. Danielle has also appeared at Aurora Theatre Company, Center REPertory Company, Crowded Fire, Just Theater, Marin Theatre Company, San Francisco Playhouse, TheatreWorks, and Word for Word.


Central Works is committed to the collaborative development of production of new plays. Since 1991, the company has developed and produced over 50 world premieres bringing to the stage new works by such local writers as William Bivins, Christopher Chen, Anne Galjour, Gary Graves, Aaron Loeb, Patricia Milton, Geetha Reddy, Michael Gene Sullivan, and Brian Thorstenson, among others. This season showcases Central Works favorite sources of inspiration: current political events, history and literature.

Plays developed with the Central Works Method begin by bringing together writer, actors and director at the very outset of the playwriting process. Over 30 hours in a supportive workshop environment, group research and collective brainstorming contribute to the development of the script. In this way, the entire artistic team participates in the creation of the new play from its inception. As workshop sessions progress, the writer introduces new pages, and the script emerges in a rich mix of group research, dramaturgical analysis and collective imagination.