When one plays a man divided against himself, just such a technological magic act seems almost de rigueur. Loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 19th-century novella “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” this adaptation by Tsikurishvili and Nathan Weinberger places in a murkily modern context the tale of the scientist named Jekyll who turns himself into a monster called Hyde. As conjured by crafty set designer Daniel Pinha, Jekyll’s lab is equipped with both plasma screens and manual typewriters, a suggestion of how ahead of his time his experiments are. And by making the source of his victims a strip club, the adapters add to the story a psychosexual whiff of Jack the Ripper.
The gyrations and muscularity of Irina Tsikurishvili’s choreography heighten, as always, the tension and watchability, and help to make “Jekyll and Hyde” an infinitely more satisfying excursion into chiller theater than the company’s 2006 version of “Frankenstein,” which used dialogue and wrestled rather laboriously with the original novel’s moral questions. The Tsikurishvilis here concentrate more expressively on how to translate into physical terms the visceral elements of horror.
As has become customary, too, in almost all of their spoken and wordless pieces, they use the music of their fellow Georgian and house composer, Konstantine Lortkipanidze, whose fusion style has frequently seemed a fine match for the starkness or ebullience of the Tsikurishvilis’ adaptations. On this occasion, the composer, with additional music by Gia Kancheli, reinforces the sense of a splintered identity with musical fragments and abrupt shifts in tone and rhythm.
But it’s the angelic-looking Mills, whose elasticity and acrobatic talent established him at a tender age as an avatar for Synetic’s gymnastic theatricality, who holds this project together. In Chelsey Shuller’s heavy costume, designed in a mode that might be described as Victorian-hip, Mills’s Jekyll is a science nerd in a lab where the tubes and screens bubble and throb: You can tell he is splashing around dangerously in the deep end of the gene pool.
Although Jekyll has a fiancee (the graceful Brittany O’Grady), his transformation into the sexually aggressive Hyde is triggered by a celebratory visit with his cigar-smoking pal Lanyon (the solid Peter Pereyra) to the strip club — for what may be the company’s first-ever number for pole dancers. There, a ponytailed stripper played with an aptly adventurous swagger by Rebecca Hausman catches the eye of gentle Jekyll and, after Jekyll injects himself with the secret formula, the sadistic Hyde.